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IS seizes Syrian town on key supply route towards Damascus

With captured town, IS will be able to transfer fighters and supplies between Homs and Qalamun areas
The Qalamun mountains on the border between Lebanon and Syria (AFP)

Islamic State militants seized control of a key town in the central Syrian province of Homs overnight after heavy clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, a monitor said on Thursday.

Al-Qaryatain, the captured town southeast of Homs, is strategically located along a road linking the ancient city of Palmyra, which has been held by IS since May, with Qalamoun region in Damascus province, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

With control of Qaryatain, IS will be able to transfer fighters and supplies between the Homs countryside and Qalamoun area more easily, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.

IS's attack started on Wednesday morning when three suicide bombers targeted pro-government checkpoints at the entrances of the city, Abdel Rahman said.

Thirty-seven government soldiers and loyalist fighters were killed, while 23 IS fighters also died, he said.

The ongoing clashes between government troops and IS are one of many fronts in Syria's complex war, which has left more than 230,000 people dead since it began in March 2011.