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Syria clashes kill more than 30 Islamic State militants in Idlib: Monitor

Idlib is largest chunk of Syrian territory held by factions opposed to Assad’s government
Syrian government offensive targets IS in Idlib province (AFP)

More than 30 Islamic State (IS) group militants were killed in fierce clashes on Saturday with Syrian government forces in the northwestern province of Idlib, a war monitor said.

The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, Rami Abdel Rahman, said Saturday's fighting between IS and government troops killed 32 militants.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched an offensive on Idlib in December to retake the southeast of the province controlled by another group of militants, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

That group is dominated by al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, a rival of IS. Idlib is the largest chunk of Syrian territory held by factions opposed to Assad’s government.

An alliance of militants and rebels overran Idlib in 2015, but since then, hard-liners have expanded their control and the influence of mainstream rebels has shrunk drastically.

The latest fighting comes after the Syrian army said on Friday it had routed IS from the Idlib’s neighbouring provinces of Hama and Aleppo.

Government forces had allowed IS militants to leave the besieged pocket of territory at the intersection of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama provinces, and go to southern Idlib.

Syria's war has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions since it began in March 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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