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Syrian forces recapture strategic town of Maaloula

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Syrian forces recapture strategic town of Maaloula


Syrian government soldiers have raised a flag of victory in Maaloula after retaking the ancient Christian town.

Military sources claim the advance will squeeze rebel supply routes into Lebanon.

It was last December that Islamist fighters, some from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured Maaloula, holding several nuns until releasing them in March in a prisoner swap.

Celebrated for its Christian sites, Maaloula is also strategically important.

It lies close to the main road linking Damascus to Homs and control of it tightens President Bashar al Assad’s grip over central Syria.

Last year the president appeared on the verge of defeat but in recent few weeks, his forces have recaptured towns including Yabroud and Rankous along the Lebanese border.

Before the conflict Maaloula’s churches and monasteries attracted both Christian and Muslim pilgrims. Since then most of its population has fled.

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