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16 Syrian soldiers killed by IS jihadists: monitor


Wednesday, 12 June, 2024 , 16:11

Beirut, June 12, 2024 (AFP) — Sixteen Syrian soldiers, including an officer, have been killed in a minefield laid by the Islamic State group and an attack by the jihadists in the desert, a monitor said Wednesday.

The soldiers were "killed after they found themselves in a minefield and an attack by members of the IS group," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The troops, with Russian air support, had been carrying out a days-long anti-IS operation in the Sukhna desert area of Homs province, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

IS overran large swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a so-called caliphate and launching a reign of terror.

It was defeated territorially in Syria in 2019, but its remnants still carry out deadly attacks, particularly in the vast Badia desert which runs from the outskirts of Damascus to the Iraqi border and mainly targeting government loyalists and Kurdish-led fighters.

The Observatory says at least 348 Syrian government loyalists have been killed this year in IS ambushes and attacks in the desert.

Earlier this month, six shepherds were killed in an IS attack on a village in the eastern Homs countryside, the Observatory said.

A United Nations report released in January said IS's combined strength in Iraq and Syria was between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters, with the Badia desert serving as a logistics and operations hub for the group in Syria.

According to the UN, more than 14 million people are at risk from explosive ordnance contamination in Syria.

Joseph McCartan from the United Nations Mine Action Service in Syria said the body was seeking $26 million to implement planned humanitarian mine action interventions and other initiatives this year, with funding the key challenge.

"Demining operations are quite costly, and the area suspected to be contaminated in Syria is quite expansive," he added.

Syria's war has killed more than half a million people displaced millions more since it erupted in March 2011 with Damascus's brutal repression of anti-government protests.