Syrian troops backed by Russia retake ancient Palmyra from the Islamic State group

Syrian troops backed by Russian jets completed the recapture of the historic city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group Thursday, the Kremlin and the army said, in another blow to the jihadists.

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Bolstered by air strikes and ground troops from their ally Moscow, Syrian forces battled through the desert for weeks to reach Palmyra.

The oasis city has traded hands several times during Syria’s six-year civil war and become a symbol of IS’s wanton destruction of priceless cultural heritage in areas under its control.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin of Palmyra’s recapture, a Kremlin spokesman told news agencies in Moscow.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said the jihadists had totally withdrawn from the desert city but not before mining several areas.

“The Syrian army is still clearing neighbourhoods of mines and has not spread out into the whole city yet,” said its director, Rami Abdel Rahman.

An army statement carried on state news agency SANA said its forces had “regained control over Palmyra and surrounding territory after a series of successful military operations”.