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Islamic State group seizes central Syrian town following clashes with government forces

  • In this picture released on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank they captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)

    In this picture released on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant holds the group's flag as he stands on a tank they captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this picture released Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant sits on a tank they captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)

    In this picture released Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant sits on a tank they captured from Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this picture released on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, Islamic State militants carry their weapons as they battle against Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)

    In this picture released on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 by the Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, Islamic State militants carry their weapons as they battle against Syrian government forces, in the town of Qaryatain southwest of Palmyra, central Syria. The Islamic State group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces, in the militants' biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said. (Rased News Network a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Syrian activists say the Islamic State group has seized a key town in central Syria following clashes with President Bashar Assad's forces.

The town of Qaryatain lies southwest of the historic town of Palmyra, which the extremist group seized in May. The capture of Qaryatain, a heavily populated town, allows the IS group to link up areas under its control in and around Palmyra with areas in the eastern countryside of Qalamoun north of Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the IS group seized the town Thursday after three suicide bombers targeted army checkpoints at the entrance the day before, setting off a fierce battle.

Websites affiliated with the Islamic State group confirmed the militants had taken over Qaryatain.