Syria army recaptures Palmyra citadel from ISIS

Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather at a palace complex on the western edge of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA on March 24, 2016. (Reuters)

The Syrian army recaptured on Friday the citadel of Palmyra from ISIS group, nearly a year after the militants overran the ancient city, state television said citing a military source.

“Our armed forces, in coordination with the popular defence forces, have taken control of the ancient Palmyra citadel after inflicting many losses in the ranks of the terrorist group Daesh,” the report said, using another name for ISIS.

Earlier, Russian news agencies are citing a military official as saying that a Russian officer has been killed in fighting near the Syrian city of Palmyra.

Aided by Russian strikes, Syrian government forces on Thursday entered the historic city of Palmyra, which has been held by ISIS since May.

Troops reached the “heart” of Palmyra, the state-run Ikhbariya news channel reported, broadcasting images from just outside the historic city which has been held by ISIS since May last year.

The state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti said an official at Russia’s Hemeimeem air base in Syria reported the death of the Russian officer on Thursday and said it occurred as the officer was directing air strikes near Palmyra.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Russian warplanes hit 146 targets Sunday through Wednesday, killing 320 militants. It said in Thursday’s statement that Russian jets also destroyed five tanks, six artillery systems, two ammunition depots and 15 vehicles.

A Syrian government official says he hopes that the “nightmare” of Palmyra is over. Maamoun Abdulkarim, who heads the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, says he hopes the damage inflicted by ISIS militants on the town’s archaeological treasures will not be worse than initially thought.

Many of the Palmyra’s Roman-era relics, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph, have been blown up by ISIS. The town, a UNESCO world heritage site, has been held by IS since May.

Abdulkarim said on Thursday that the battle for Palmyra is a “cultural battle for the entire world and everyone who believes in common human heritage.”

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Last Update: 06:50 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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