Syria regime says it killed top IS commander
Damascus claimed to have killed a leading Islamic State group commander on an offensive on the militants' enclave in southern Syria on Saturday, according to media reports.
Abu Hajer al-Shishani, a Chechen commander, was killed on Saturday during a Syrian regime assault on a pocket of IS territory in Suweida province, according to pro-Damascus media.
The foreign fighter was killed during a firefight with the regime around the al-Safa Hill, a black volcanic area close to Suweida, where a small group of IS fighters have been holed up.
A regime offensive on the area has forced the militants to withdraw to the Syrian Desert region, according to Iranian media.
The group is believed to be responsible for the abduction of dozens of Druze civilians earlier this year, following a massacre of villages in Suweida.
Around 250 people were murdered by IS, mostly Druze civilians, following the July attacks on villages in southern Syria.
The Syrian regime managed to free most of the hostages, but have been blamed for cutting security in the area, giving the IS group easy access to the Druze villages.
A larger contingent of IS fighters is holed up in eastern Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have renewed an offensive on the group.
The militants hold a number of villages in the Euphrates Valley, but their strength is thought to be seriously depleted following their collapse in Iraq and near-defeat in Syria.
With US air strikes, the SDF have managed to capture most of IS' former territories in northern and eastern Syria, including the group's self-declared "capital", Raqqa.
Separate Turkish-led rebel and regime assaults have also seen IS' territories dwindle to a fraction of the territory the group held in 2014.