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Islamic State captures town from regime troops in Syria's Homs province

The latest offensive by Islamic State forces brings the militants up to 8 miles of a highway linking Homs province to the Syrian capital, Damascus.

By
Fred Lambert
Debris litters the streets of downtown Homs, Syria, on March 21, 2012. On Nov. 1, 2015, Islamic State forces captured the town of Maheen, in Homs province, killing at least 50 government troops in a battle kicked off by two suicide car bombs. The militants also launched an attack on the adjacent town of Sadad, which has a majority Assyrian Christian population. UPI
Debris litters the streets of downtown Homs, Syria, on March 21, 2012. On Nov. 1, 2015, Islamic State forces captured the town of Maheen, in Homs province, killing at least 50 government troops in a battle kicked off by two suicide car bombs. The militants also launched an attack on the adjacent town of Sadad, which has a majority Assyrian Christian population. UPI | License Photo

MAHEEN, Syria, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Islamic State militants captured a town from Syrian regime troops on Sunday after launching an offensive in Syria's Homs province, activists say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the town of Maheen fell to IS forces in an assault kicked off Saturday by two suicide car bombs. At least 50 government troops and a number of IS fighters were killed in the ensuing battle.

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Clashes between IS and regime forces are meanwhile taking place in the nearby town of Sadad, which is mainly inhabited by Assyrian Christians, according to SOHR.

The advances bring IS forces up to 8 miles from the main highway linking Homs province to the Syrian capital, Damascus.

IS forces made gains in Homs province over the summer, capturing the ancient ruins of Palmyra and the adjacent town of Tadmur in May. In August the extremists captured the town of al-Qaryatain.

SOHR reported regime forces on Sunday conducting airstrikes in Palmyra and the northern countryside of Homs province.

Russian warplanes have since Sept. 30 been launching air raids in support of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and a U.S.-led coalition has for more than a year conducted airstrikes against IS forces in both Iraq and Syria.

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Moscow asserts it is attacking IS forces, but activists and Western leaders accuse Russia of bombing rebel forces in areas where IS is not present.

The BBC, quoting activists, reported more than 60 people were killed in northern Syria's Aleppo province Saturday, while more than 70 people were killed and hundreds wounded in an airstrike and shelling in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Syria's civil war, now in its fourth year, has killed an estimated 250,000 people and forced half the population from their homes.

The capture of Maheen comes two days after the United States, which is opposed to the Assad regime, announced a small number of special operations forces would be deployed to assist anti-IS forces in northern Syria.

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