Syrian flag raised in town of Douma as regime takes full control of eastern Ghouta

A boy waves a Syrian flag as government buses evacuated al-Islam Army's fighters from Douma, in eastern Ghouta, Syria, on April 9, 2018.
A boy waves a Syrian flag as government buses evacuated al-Islam Army's fighters from Douma, in eastern Ghouta, Syria, on April 9, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's Defence Ministry said on Thursday (April 12) the Syrian regime flag was flying in the town of Douma, signalling that government forces had taken full control over eastern Ghouta.

"Today, a significant event in the history of Syria took place. The raising of a regime flag over a building in the town of Douma signified control over this town and consequently over eastern Ghouta as a whole," Major General Yury Yevtushenko, head of the Russian military's centre for reconciliation in Syria, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The Syrian government itself has yet to officially announce it has fully retaken Douma, which was the last part of the erstwhile rebel enclave on the eastern edge of Damascus to escape its control.

Russian television showed footage of the Syrian government's red, white and black flag with two green stars hanging from an unidentified building, while cheering crowds waved flags among shell-damaged buildings.

The Russian Defence Ministry also said its military police had begun patrolling Douma, after announcing their planned deployment the day before.

"From today, units of the Russian armed forces' military police are working in the town of Douma. They are a guarantee of the observance of law and order in the town," the Defence Ministry said in a statement, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Russian military police had established a presence inside Douma this week as part of a deal with Jaish al-Islam, the Islamist group that controlled the area for years.

Several thousand of its fighters were still in Douma on Thursday and there was no immediate confirmation that any regime forces had entered the city.

The Russian military said the situation in Douma was normalising and a total of 166,644 people had been evacuated from the city through a humanitarian corridor.