DAMASCUS, Nov. 3 – Syria’s army has seized Deir Ezzor from the Islamic State group, state media said Friday, driving the jihadists from the last major city where they were present.
“The army announces full control of Deir Ezzor city,” state television said in a breaking news alert, citing sources on the ground.
State news agency SANA also reported that Deir Ezzor had been “fully liberated.” State television reported that engineering units from the army were combing captured neighbourhoods to defuse mines and other explosives.
On Thursday, a reporter contributing to AFP saw widespread destruction in the city, with whole buildings hit by air strikes or artillery fire crumpled into themselves and streets strewn with rubble. Trenches dug by IS fighters to defend their positions were still visible as government minesweepers worked.
Syrian troops and allied fighters backed by Russian air power have been battling inside the eastern city since September, when they broke an IS siege of nearly three years on government-held districts.
In recent days they have advanced, capturing a string of neighbourhoods and encircling remaining IS fighters.
The city is the provincial capital of surrounding Deir Ezzor province, an oil-rich region that sits on the county’s eastern border with Iraq. The province was once largely held by IS, though parts of Deir Ezzor city stayed under government control throughout the jihadist group’s reign.
IS is now facing twin assaults in the province, from the army as well as US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
The jihadist group has lost much of the territory it once held in the province. Its most important remaining position is the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border. More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
(Copyright AFP, obtained from National News Agency)