Islamic State attacks Syrian state-held areas, 31 killed

The Islamic State group attacked several government-held villages in central Syria on Thursday, capturing at least one of them in violence that left 52 people dead including more than two dozen women and children, some of whom were beheaded, as well as Syrian troops, state media, medical officials and an opposition monitoring group said.

The Daesh attack killed 25 civilians, including five children, and 27 pro-government fighters, the Britain-based monitor said.

The Observatory said at least 22 government troops and allied militiamen and 40 ISIS fighters had been killed in clashes in the area in the past 24 hours.

State news agency SANA said 52 people had been killed, among them 15 children, adding that numerous dead had been beheaded and mutilated.

"Despite the arrival of reinforcements, government forces have been unable to repel the attack so far", Rahman told the AFP news agency.

Numerous people who live in that part of Syria belong to the Ismaili sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, and would be regarded by IS as infidels.

The villages are located near the town of Salamiyeh and the highway that links the capital, Damascus, to the northern city of Aleppo, but state media said traffic was not affected.

It said the Syrian warplanes struck IS positions in central Syria, following the attack.

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The Observatory said that at least 34 people, including both civilians and fighters on both sides, had been killed and that dozens had been injured.

It came as the United Nations said Syria's regime and rebels had agreed to set up expert committees to discuss "constitutional issues" at the latest round of UN-backed peace talks in Geneva.

Syria's state news agency put the death toll at 52, including 15 children.

Also on Thursday, Daesh "Islamic State militants" shelled a regime-controlled area in the city of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, killing 14 people and wounding 21 others, the Observatory said. Turkey views the U.S-backed Kurdish fighters as an extension of its own insurgent group.

Meanwhile, Turkey yesterday called for the removal of the USA diplomat coordinating the worldwide coalition fighting the Islamic State group, accusing him of backing Syrian Kurdish militias.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government demonstrations in 2011.

The three nations agreed earlier this month to establish four "de-escalation zones" in Syria, and are now hammering out the details of the plan.


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