Damascus: As many as 73 government troops and allied fighters were killed within the past 24 hours in battles with the Islamic State (IS), a monitor group reported on Friday.
The casualties were inflicted in surprise attacks on their positions in the desert region of Deir al-Zour and Homs provinces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
The surprise attacks were launched as the jihadist group faces an offensive by the Russian-backed regime against some of its last bastions.
The extremist group claimed the attacks against several positions south of the town of Sukhna in central Homs province, saying its fighters had killed dozens of regime troops.
The battles erupted when the IS militants attacked towns on the road between Homs province and Deir al-Zour, the UK-based watchdog group added.
The attacks come a day after IS released what it said was an audio recording of its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the first in a year, in which he urged resistance, a PTI report said.
Syrian troops pushed through the vast desert that separates the main cities of the west from the Euphrates Valley this summer and broke an IS siege of nearly three years on government enclaves in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour earlier this month, the report added.
The PTI report said that the yesterday’s attacks targeted government forces around Deir al-Zour and on their supply lines through the Sukhna area from the west, the Observatory said.
“The first attacks were carried out against checkpoints manned by loyalist troops in Al-Shula,” a village near Deir al-Zour, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
“IS then carried out a series of attacks against checkpoints along the length of the motorway from Al-Shula to south of Sukhna.”
The PTI report added that the Syrian state media made no mention of the army’s losses, but said its troops “confronted an attack by the terrorist Daesh group on the highway between Deir Ezzor and Palmyra, deep in the Badia desert.”
State news agency SANA said the army had “inflicted heavy losses on the ranks of the terrorists”, adding that units were “currently working to clear remaining Daesh terrorists from the area and secure the highway for traffic”.
The Observatory said at least 45 IS fighters had also been killed in the fighting.
The attacks by the jihadists came as they face multiple offensives against the last bastions of their self-proclaimed caliphate.
In addition to the Russian-backed government offensive, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters is battling the group, which is also under attack in neighbouring Iraq, the report said.