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Syrian army says Islamic State cleared from southeastern desert

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army said on Monday Islamic State militants had been cleared from a rugged area in southeastern Syria, where they had been holding out for months against a campaign to defeat them.

In a statement, Syria’s army high command said it had taken full control of the Tulul al-Safa heights, a volcanic plateau east of Sweida province.

The area was Islamic State’s last stronghold in southern Syria and the Syrian armed forces recovered a large amount of light and medium weaponry, the statement said.

Local sources told Reuters on Sunday hundreds of Islamic State insurgents had withdrawn from that area after holding out for over three months against an offensive.

The jihadist group, which lost most of its territory in Syria last year, rampaged through the city of Sweida in July from the direction of desert east of the city, killing more than 200 people and detonating suicide vests.

Islamic State is still present in eastern Syria in a pocket east of the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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