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Syrian army seizes ancient Christian town near Lebanon border

Published on Apr 15, 2014 7:43 AM

MAALOULA, Syria (REUTERS) - Syrian soldiers backed by Hizbollah fighters recaptured the town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, on Monday, April 14, 2014, military sources and state television said, further squeezing rebels' supply routes through the Qalamoun mountains into Lebanon.

Islamist fighters, some from the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, had taken over part of the ancient Christian town in December and held several nuns captive until releasing them in March in a prisoner-exchange deal.

Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from Lebanon and securing the main highway leading north from Damascus towards central Syria, Homs and the Mediterranean.

"They are inside Maaloula now. It is under their complete control, including the monastery of Mar Thecla," said a military source in contact with government fighters on the ground.

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad pose with their weapons as they celebrate after taking control on the al-Sakhra village in Qalamoun Mountains, northeast of Damascus on April 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
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