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Syria war: Dozens killed as Islamic State group clashes with government forces

Fighting and Russian air strikes in central desert province of Homs since late Thursday have claimed lives of 20 pro-government and 31 IS fighters
Syrian soldier stands guard on main road in central Homs province after it was taken back from Islamic State group in 2018 (AFP/file photo)

Clashes between the Islamic State (IS) group and Russia-backed Syrian government forces and have killed more than 50 fighters on both sides in two days, a Britain-based war monitor said on Saturday.

Fighting and Russian air strikes in the central desert province of Homs since late Thursday have claimed the lives of 20 pro-government and 31 IS fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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"The fighting started in the night of Thursday to Friday with a jihadist assault on regime positions" near the town of al-Sukhna, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, as cited by AFP.

IS fighters have retained a roving presence in Syria's vast Badia desert despite losing their last shred of territory last year. They regularly carry out attacks there as well as in neighbouring Iraq.

On 2 May, attacks by IS on stations of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi forces north of Baghdad killed 10 militia members, security forces said, in the deadliest operation by the group's sleeper cells in months.

Saturday’s death toll is expected to rise because of the serious injuries of some casualties.

IS declared a cross-border "caliphate" in large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, but several military campaigns against it chipped away at that proto-state and eventually led to its territorial demise.

Syria's war has killed more than 380,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests, before evolving into a complex conflict involving world powers and various groups of combatants.