Syrian president acknowledges recent setbacks in war after series of losses to rebels

Syrian President Bashar Assad has acknowledged recent "setbacks" in the war against rebels trying to topple him.

The rare admission of battlefield losses follows a series of significant rebel advances in northern and southern Syria. Assad spoke during a public appearance at a school in Damascus on Wednesday, surrounded by cheering students.

He said it was normal to have "gains and losses and ups and downs" in war.

However, Assad promised a comeback for his troops entangled in heavy fighting with rebels who recently took over a strategic town in northern Syria near the border with Turkey.