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AFP

Syria army retakes Iraq border post from jihadists

Syrian troops retook on Friday a checkpoint on the northeastern border with Syria, captured a day earlier by Jihadist fighters of Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.

 

The rebels had overrun the post at Yaarubiyeh in oil-rich Hassakeh province on Thursday after fierce clashes, the Britain-based Observatory said.

 

"Government forces succeeded in retaking the Yaarubiyeh crossing less than 24 hours after it was taken by fighters from the Al-Nusra Front" and other rebel elements, the Observatory said.

 

They also "captured half of the city of Yaarubiyeh," it added.

 

Al-Nusra Front, an increasingly influential factor in Syria's conflict, also took control of the nearby town of Shaddadeh and surrounding villages in mid-February.

 

The border crossing was controlled by rebel forces last year before the army recaptured it.

 

Al-Nusra Front first gained notoriety for its suicide bombings in Syria's main cities and has evolved into a strong fighting force leading attacks on battlefronts throughout the country.

 

Its tactics and suspected affiliation to Al-Qaeda's offshoot in Iraq have landed it on the US list of terrorist organizations.

 

Rebels of the mainstream Free Syrian Army have told AFP that Al-Nusra fighters, despite their small numbers, have greater economic and logistical support than other insurgents and funding from abroad.

 

The jihadist group targets strategic points mainly in eastern Syria, including oil and gas facilities, and draws recruits from the local population by paying them a salary.

 

It aspires to create an Islamic state in Syria, whose regime accuses Saudi Arabia and Qatar of financing Islamist fighters in the two-year-old conflict that the UN says has killed at least 70,000 people.

Government forces succeeded in retaking the Yaarubiyeh crossing less than 24 hours after it was taken.