02:54 GMT01 October 2020
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    Extremist Syrian rebel groups reportedly have declared the city of Idlib as their capital.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Extremist Syrian rebel groups have declared the northwestern city of Idlib as their capital, Al Arabiya reported Monday.

    The coalition of rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front, seized Syria's northwestern city of Idlib on Saturday after five days of intensive clashes between militant groups and government forces.

    Idlib, with a population of over 100,000 people, became the second Syrian provincial capital to be taken over by rebel fighters since 2011. The Syrian city of Raqqa was seized by rebels in March 2013.

    Idlib is strategically close to the Turkish border and to a major highway that connects the Syrian capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo.

    The Syrian army has been fighting against several opposition and rebel groups, including Islamic State (ISIL) extremists and the al-Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra), since the start of an internal conflict in the country four years ago.

    Since 2012, Syrian rebel forces have managed to take control of multiple areas in Idlib province, but the provincial capital has remained under government control up until now.

    The ongoing civil war in Syria has claimed 220,000 lives since 2011, according to UN estimates.


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