LATAKIA, Syria, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Syrian government said Tuesday regime forces captured a strategically important town in the country's northwestern Latakia province.
Syrian military units, backed by pro-government militiamen, gained full control over the suburbs of Salma, according to SANA.
The regime force also reportedly seized the village of Tirtyah and several other locations in the mountainous region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group monitoring the conflict, said clashes in Salma were ongoing but that government troops -- backed by Hezbollah fighters and pro-government militias -- had consolidated control over portions of the town.
Speaking to Orient News, a spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, denied regime forces gained full control over Salma and said back-and-forth fighting was still occurring in the area.
Other groups fighting government forces in the town include The Islamic Turkestan Party and the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's branch in Syria.
According to SOHR, Salma is strategically important due to its vantage point, which facilitates control by fire over much of a rural mountainous region known as Jabal al-Akrad.
The Syrian military has been on the rebound after Russia began conducting airstrikes on behalf of pro-Assad forces on Sept. 30. Prior to Moscow's intervention, rebel coalitions had largely pushed regime troops into the country's western coastal provinces.