Syrian regime, allies recapture last IS stronghold
Syrian regime forces and allied militias recaptured the last major Islamic State-held town in Syria on Wednesday, having launched an operation to displace the militants earlier in the day.
Albu Kamal lies on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, in the oil-rich eastern province of Deir az-Zour.
After a series of defeats in Deir az-Zour province and the loss of IS's de facto capital Raqqa further north, Albu Kamal was the only urban centre left in the hands of the group.
"The last stronghold of Daesh (Islamic State), Albu Kamal, is free of the Daesh organisation," a commander in the military alliance supporting Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday.
Hizballah were "the foundation in the battle of Albu Kamal", said the commander, according to Reuters, with hundreds of fighters from the group taking part in the battle.
Hashd al-Shaabi militia forces also took part in the capture of Albu Kamal, the commander added.
Earlier on Wednesday Iraqi troops launched an offensive against the Islamic State-held region of al-Rumana, north of the recently-liberated al-Qaim town in Anbar which borders Syria.
In recent weeks, an estimated 120,000 people have been displaced from Albu Kamal alone, said Linda Tom from the United Nations' humanitarian affairs coordination office in Damascus.
On Friday, Syrian forces backed by Russian air power took full control of Deir az-Zour, which was the last city where IS still had a presence.
The US-led coalition that has been fighting IS in an offensive separate to that of the Russian-backed regime estimated recently that there were 1,500 fighters in the Euphrates Valley border area.
Moscow is a close ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and launched a military intervention in support of his government in September 2015.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, before spiralling into a complex, multi-front war that drew in international forces and foreign jihadists.
Agencies contributed to this report