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Islamic State attack in Syria's Homs province kills 27 pro-government fighters

Twenty-two IS fighters also died as forces battled to prevent them from entering Al-Sukhna, an activist group says
Syrian pro-government forces recaptured Al-Sukhna from Islamic State in 2017 (AFP)

At least 27 pro-government fighters have been killed in an Islamic State (IS) attack in the central Syrian province of Homs amid fierce clashes, a UK-based activist group has said.

The forces, backed by Russian air strikes, were battling IS fighters to prevent them from entering the desert town of Al-Sukhna, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The air raids and clashes killed 22 IS fighters.

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"Russian aviation intervened to stop the jihadists from advancing and retaking the town," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

But IS managed to break through and entered parts of Al-Sukhna in the evening, taking control of some neighbourhoods, he added.

Syrian pro-government forces recaptured the town from the militant group in 2017.

Thursday's attack was the deadliest in the area since December, when IS fighters attacked an army garrison in a gas facility east of Homs city, killing four civilians and 13 troops or militiamen, Abdel Rahman said.

IS proclaimed a "caliphate" in parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014.

After years of various offensives against it, US-backed forces finally expelled the group from its last patch of territory in eastern Syria a year ago.

But IS retains a presence in the vast Badia desert, stretching across the country through Homs province and eastwards to the Iraqi border, and they continue to carry out deadly attacks. 

Syria's war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.