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75 displaced civilians killed in ISIL attack in east Syria

AFP-Jiji BEIRUT (AFP-Jiji) — A car bombing by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group killed at least 75 displaced civilians who had fled fighting in eastern Syria, a monitor said Sunday, as the cornered extremists try to defend their last strongholds.

Syrian government troops meanwhile moved closer to the border town of Albu Kamal, the last urban zone still held by ISIL jihadist holdouts in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The regime’s forces “progressed rapidly” and are 15 kilometers from the town, the Britain-based monitor said.

Saturday’s attack in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor killed “at least 75 displaced civilians including children” and wounded 140, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

The scale of the attack showed that despite losing vast swathes of territory it held in Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group is still capable of mounting deadly attacks.

Abdel Rahman said “a new convoy of displaced people joined the gathering at the time of the attack.”

The displaced had fled battles in the province, where Russian-backed Syrian regime forces and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, are fighting the jihadist group in separate offensives.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground inside Syria for its information, reported Saturday that dozens had died in the bombing.

Fighting across Deir Ezzor Province has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some straight into the desert.

Saturday’s attack came a day after Russian-backed government forces seized Deir Ezzor city from the jihadists.

ISIL, which in 2014 declared a “caliphate” spanning territory in Iraq and Syria roughly the size of Britain, has also lost most of the territory it once controlled in neighboring Iraq, including second city Mosul.

On Friday, Iraqi forces retook the border town of Al-Qaim, also on the Euphrates river.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi on Sunday toured Al-Qaim and raised the national flag in the town center.

The jihadists are now confined to a small stretch of the Euphrates Valley border area, which was at the heart of ISIL’s so-called caliphate.

The U.S.-led coalition has estimated that around 1,500 jihadists are still in the area.Speech

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