More than 50 Syrian soldiers and Islamist fighters have been killed in fighting over a strategic hilltop
More than 50 Syrian soldiers and Islamist fighters have been killed in fighting over a strategic hilltop © Fadi al-Halabi - AMC/AFP/File
More than 50 Syrian soldiers and Islamist fighters have been killed in fighting over a strategic hilltop
AFP
Last updated: March 12, 2015

50 dead in battle in Assad home province: Syria monitor

More than 50 regime soldiers and Islamist fighters were killed as they battled over a strategic hilltop in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's home province, a monitoring group said on Thursday.

Government forces clashed with Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants backed by other armed Islamist groups in a village in Latakia province in the northwest.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting broke out Wednesday and raged through the night in Jabal al-Akrad district, a rare rebel stronghold in the province, which is the heartland of the ruling Assad clan.

Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front and its allies were seeking to recapture the village of Dourine, which overlooks their positions in one of the district's main towns, Salma.

They lost the village to Assad's forces last week after holding it for more than a year.

"The clashes on Wednesday led to 50 dead from both sides. There are many casualties because the fighters are facing off directly," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"Al-Nusra managed to retake parts of the village, but the regime still controls the hilltop that overlooks Salma," he said.

The mountainous district of Jabal al-Akrad, which translates to Mountain of the Kurds, is the main rebel stronghold in Latakia province

Despite its name, it is populated mostly by Sunni Arabs who were early supporters of the protests against the Assad regime in 2011.

Jabal al-Akrad lies close to villages populated by Alawites, who belong to the same offshoot of Shiite Islam as Assad.

The region is one of multiple fronts in the four-year Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 210,000 people.

In the central province of Homs, five regime soldiers were killed Thursday in a suicide attack on an army checkpoint, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement posted on a jihadist website, saying it was carried out by a Jordanian in an explosives-laden car.

Syria's state news agency SANA also reported the attack. It said four people were killed, without specifying whether they were soldiers or civilians.

IS claimed a similar attack near a gas facility in the area in late December.

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