The Latest: Syrian troops close to encircling Deir el-Zour

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

A Syria war monitor says Russian-backed Syrian forces have all but encircled Islamic State militants in Deir el-Zour city in eastern Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Wednesday that Russia extended pontoon bridges across the Euphrates River, facilitating reinforcements to the eastern banks of The Euphrates river where the Syrian troops are closing in on the militants from the west.

The official state news agency SANA reported intense clashes in al-Husseiniyeh, which according to the Observatory is the remaining contested village on the eastern side of the river before the militants are besieged in the city.

Backed by Russia, Syrian forces have advanced since early September on Deir el-Zour. U.S.-backed forces are also racing to control areas along the border with Iraq in the oil-rich province.


11:40 a.m.

The Russian Defense Ministry says its airstrike has killed five warlords of al-Qaida's branch in Syria.

Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov in a statement Wednesday said the military targeted the warlords, who Moscow says are responsible for attacking Russian military police in Hama province last week.

Russia's presence in Syria has been expanding beyond its original role of providing cover to President Bashar Assad's offensive against Islamic State group militants.

The Russian military said the airstrike was launched after receiving intelligence about an upcoming high-level meeting of the leaders of al-Qaida's Levant Liberation Committee south of the city of Idlib. It said five warlords and 32 militants died in the airstrike, which also destroyed an ammunition depot nearby.

The ministry did not specify when the airstrike took place.