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Palmyra recapture an 'important achievement,' says Syria's Assad

The Syrian president has confirmed reports that government forces seized the UNESCO world heritage site Palmyra. The military said the "Islamic State" militant group "has been dealt quite a severe blow."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday hailed the recapture of Palmyra from the "Islamic State" militant group as a success in the global fight against terrorism.

"The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism," Assad told a French delegation in Damascus, Reuters news agency reported, citing comments aired on state television.

Assad's comments come after Syria's military command announced early Sunday that Palmyra was "under the army's full control," reported the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

The "Islamic State" militant group "has been dealt quite a severe blow," the military added in a statement.

Moscow, a key supporter of the Assad government, announced Russian warplanes had conducted 40 sorties against 158 targets in an operation to regain control of the city.

In May 2015, Syrian troops withdrew from Palmyra, effectively paving the way for the "Islamic State" group to capture it days after seizing the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Militants destroyed several ancient artifacts after occupying the city in what UNESCO described as "war crimes."

Since seizing Mosul in Iraq in mid-2014, the "IS" group has occupied large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, and claimed responsibility for multiple attacks in European capitals.

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Assad forces retake Palmyra

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