IS steps up Syria attacks following 'loss of caliphate'
The Islamic State group has stepped up attacks in Syria following the loss of its last defined territory in the country last month.
At least 69 Syrian regime forces and allied foreign fighters have been killed by IS in the desert over the past month, mostly in the eastern Badia Desert region, according to the monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Among those killed were at least two Russians and nine foreign members of Iran-linked militias.
Although the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) won a six-month battle to force IS fighters out of the last remaining territory of the group's so-called "caliphate", Baghouz, last month, IS fighters remain in Syria.
Many of them are located in the Badia Desert, located in the east of Syria, although extremists have also staged attacks in other areas of the country.
The vast Syrian desert stretches all the way from the capital Damascus and the cities of Homs and Hama to its north to the Euphrates Valley near the Iraq border, where Baghouz is located.
The extremist group has "escalated" its attacks in the desert over the past month since losing Baghouz, staging attacks in the provinces of Deir az-Zour, al-Suwaida and Homs, the UK-based SOHR said on Saturday.
Suspected IS militants also killed seven SDF fighters in the northern city of Manbij earlier this month.
Aerial and ground attacks on IS have killed 22 extremist fighters over the past month, according to SOHR.
Commanders of the US-led coalition, which provided air and artillery support for the Kurdish-led operation to defeat the "caliphate", have warned repeatedly that the extremists' loss of their last piece of territory did not mean their elimination as a fighting force.
Analysts have said that continuing search-and-destroy operations by the multiple alliances lined up against the jihadis would be necessary to prevent them mounting a comeback from their desert hideouts.