Attacks by the Islamic State group have killed at least 30 pro-government forces and soldiers in the Syrian desert, a war monitor said on Wednesday, in one of the deadliest attacks of its kind this year.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were “30 dead, four of them soldiers and 26 from the National Defense Forces, in simultaneous attacks by the Islamic State group on Wednesday morning on checkpoints and military positions” in the Syrian desert.
The attacks occurred in locations between Raqa, Homs and Deir Ezzor, added the Observatory, which has an extensive network of sources on the ground.
The Observatory’s head, Rami Abdel Rahman, warned that the number could rise, citing an unspecified number of injured, some of whom were in serious condition.
The war monitor said Russian warplanes had launched attacks on IS positions in the desert, reporting casualties among the jihadists.
In June 2014, IS declared a “caliphate” in large parts of Syria and Iraq and began a reign of terror.
It was territorially defeated in Syria in 2019, but its remnants continue to carry out deadly hit-and-runs and ambushes, particularly from desert hideouts, targeting both pro-government forces and Kurdish-led fighters.
ISIS was blamed for a series of deadly attacks on government loyalists earlier this year.
In August, 33 Syrian soldiers were killed when ISIS ambushed their bus in the desert near Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor province, the Observatory said at the time.
Days earlier, ten loyalists were killed in an IS attack in Raqa province, the jihadists’ former stronghold in Syria, the Observatory reported.
Also in August, jihadists attacked an army-guarded convoy of oil tankers in the Syrian desert, killing seven people, including two civilians.
That same month, IS announced the death of its leader and named his successor – the group’s fifth leader – Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurashi.
The war in Syria erupted after President Bashar al-Assad’s government crushed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011 and subsequently attracted foreign powers and global jihadists.
The conflict has killed more than 500,000 people and forced half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.
Damascus initially lost control over large parts of Syria to opposition groups, Kurdish fighters and jihadists from the IS group.
However, with the support of key ally Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, the army has gradually gained ground, while Russian intervention since September 2015 has turned the tide in the government’s favor and Damascus now controls around two-thirds of the country.
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