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Militants capture Syrian gas field in fierce fighting

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By The Associated Press
Friday, July 18, 2014, 6:00 p.m.
 

BEIRUT — Islamic terrorists killed at least 115 Syrian troops, guards and workers as they captured a gas field in central Syria after daylong clashes, activists said on Friday.

More than 20 terrorists died in the fighting on Thursday for the Shaer gas field, the deadliest battles so far between fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Fighters from the Islamic State have in the past few weeks seized a huge chunk of territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border where they declared a self-styled caliphate. Earlier, they captured much of Syria's oil-rich eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

The heavy assault on the Shaer field, which lies in the desert region of Palmyra in the central province of Homs, began with a suicide bombing and an attack on army checkpoints on Thursday, according to an activist there who goes by the name Beibares Tellawi.

The terrorists seized the field after fierce clashes with government forces that went on for 12 hours, Tellawi said.

“This is the biggest operation (by Islamic State fighters) against the regime in Homs province,” Tellawi said, speaking via Skype from Homs.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 115 people on the government side were killed.

The Observatory said 21 Islamic State fighters were killed during the battle, while Tellawi put the figure at 27.

An official in the Homs governor's office said he had no information on the incident. He declined to give his name because he was not authorized to talk to media. The Syrian government rarely comments on attacks targeting its forces.

The Observatory and Tellawi said the fate of more than 200 people captured in the facility is still unknown.

An amateur video reported to be of the area and released by activists shows dozens of bodies strewn across a desert area.

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