May 21 (UPI) -- Syria's Arab Army has gained total control of Damascus city for the first time since war began in 2011, the military said on Monday.
Gen. Ali Mayhoub said in a statement that Damascus and its surroundings, its countryside and its towns, are "secure and safe," also crediting Syrian allies for their assistance.
"This concludes the complete cleansing of all of the towns in the Western and Eastern Ghouta from the scourge of armed takfiri terrorism," Mayhoub said in the statement. Takfiri is a term for extremists who see other Muslims as non-believers.
After Syrian government forces captured Eastern Ghouta last month, the Syrian army fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, for weeks to re-seize the last areas outside government control in the capital area, which included a small al-Hajar-al-Aswad enclave and nearby Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.
The Syrian army pushed ISIS militants out of its pockets in southern Damascus in exchange for transportation to eastern Syria, Al-Masdar News reported.
Syria's war began in 2011 as protests erupted against President Bashar al-Assad.
Since then, more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed, over a million have been wounded and half the country's population has been displaced.