Damascus troops sweep Latakia as rebels make final stand

Damascus troops sweep Latakia as rebels make final stand
Syrian regime forces have recaptured the last rebel-held town in Latakia province.
1 min read
24 January, 2016
Syrian regime forces surround last major rebel-held town in Latakia [Getty]
Syrian regime forces have taken control of the last major rebel-held town in the coastal Latakia province, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad's support, state television reported on Sunday.

Rabia town had been held by the opposition since 2012 and was controlled by a range of rebel groups including some made up of Syrian Turkmen, as well as the Nusra Front - the local al-Qaeda franchise.

"Armed forces, in coordination with the popular defence [militia], seized control of the town of Rabia," state television said, citing a military source.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rabia fell on Sunday after a steady regime advance left the town surrounded.

"In the past 48 hours, regime forces surrounded the town from three sides - the south, west, and north - by capturing 20 villages," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Senior Russian military officials were overseeing the battle for Rabia, and Russian air power "played an essential role" in the fight, Abdel Rahman said.

With the capture of Rabia, government troops are closing in on rebel supply routes from the Turkish border to the north, he added.

Rabia's fall comes after government troops seized the strategic town of Salma on January 12, following months of operations to capture it from rebels who had held it since 2012.