The Syrian army has recaptured the strategic town of Kessab near the country’s border with Turkey in the northwestern province of Latakia. The jihadist Al-Nusra Front were forced to withdraw on Saturday “leaving behind only a small number” of men, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The town of Kessab has been under siege by militants for more than two months.

The islamist fighters pulled back as Syrian army forces backed by pro-regime fighters, among them members of Hizbullah, advanced on the nearby village of Nabaein. The government forces killed a large number of the militants during the operation.

The militants are said to have pulled back to their strongholds in the rural mountainous region of Jabal al-Akrad.

Kessab, an Armenian town, is strategically important because it is located near the only border crossing with Turkey in sensitive Latakia province, the heartland of the Alawite sect from which Assad hails.

When the crossing fell from government hands in March, it was the last functioning border post with Turkey to slip from army control.

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