Syria reclaims 85 percent of territory from ‘Islamic State,’ says top Russia general

The Syrian army has made significant advances since breaking the siege of Deir el-Zour, said a top Russian general in Syria. The “Islamic State” has lost much of the territory it gained during its brutal 2014 campaign, Deutsche Welle reports.

Lieutenant General Alexander Lapin, who heads Russia’s military headquarters in Syria, said on Tuesday that 85 percent of the Middle East country’s territory had been cleared of militants and rebels.

Speaking from the Hemeimeem air base in the Syrian province of Latakia, Lapin said Syrian government troops made significant advances over the past month, bringing it closer to ending the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group’s presence in the country.

Last week, the Syrian army broke a nearly three-year siege by IS on the government enclave of Deir el-Zour.

“At the moment the operation to liberate the city continues. The Syrian troops are completing the defeat of the ISIL group, which blocked Deir el-Zour’s northern and southern neighborhoods,” Lapin said, referring to the militant group by an alternative acronym.

However, Lapin noted that IS fighters still control roughly 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles) in Syria, mostly in the Deir el-Zour province that borders Iraq.

In neighboring Iraq, Baghdad-led forces have managed to force IS out of its stronghold in Mosul, marking a major victory for the Middle East nation. With the militant group losing much of the territory it gained in 2014 during a blitzkrieg campaign across the region, analysts have warned of new attacks elsewhere, including Europe.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces, which comprise several Kurdish and Arab factions, have pushed into IS’ de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.

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