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Syrian state media: Army frees city of Deir el-Zour from IS

By The Associated Press
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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian army announced on Friday that it has liberated the long-contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour from the Islamic State group — a largely symbolic victory in the military's fight to capture remaining IS strongholds in the oil-rich province along the border with Iraq.

In a statement, the military said it was now in full control of the city, after a weeks-long campaign carried out with allied forces. It said army units were now removing booby traps and mines left behind by the extremist group in the city.

Deir el-Zour had been divided into a government-held and an IS-held part for nearly three years.

Syrian government forces and their pro-government allies first broke the militant group's siege of their part of the city in September in a Russian-backed offensive, and have been advancing against IS positions since then.

The development is the latest significant defeat for IS as the militant group sees its self-proclaimed "caliphate" crumble and lose almost all urban strongholds.

The Syrian army, backed by Russia and Iran, and Kurdish-led Syrian forces, backed by the United States, are now racing to take the rest of the oil-rich eastern province, including the key town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border. Deir el-Zour is the provincial capital of the province with the same name.

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