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IS attack on Syria army bus kills 23 soldiers

BEIRUT (AFP) – At least 23 soldiers have been killed in war-torn Syria’s east, a monitor said yesterday, the deadliest in a new wave of attacks blamed on Islamic State (IS) group extremists.

Despite losing their last piece of territory in Syria in 2019, IS has maintained hideouts in the vast Syrian desert from which it has carried out ambushes and hit-and-run attacks.

IS “members targeted a military bus” in Deir Ezzor province on Thursday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as remnants of the extremist group escalate their attacks.

The latest attack killed “23 soldiers and wounded more than 10 others”, some of whom in critical condition, said the Britain-based group which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

The Observatory said “dozens of (other) soldiers” were missing after the attack in which the extremists surrounded the bus and opened fire in Deir Ezzor province’s Mayadeen area, in Syria’s vast Badia desert.

The official Syrian news agency SANA said the “terrorist attack” had caused a number of military casualties, citing an unnamed army source.

Syrian government forces and their allied pro-Iranian armed groups deployed in Deir Ezzor were on high alert yesterday morning, the Observatory reported.

The Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said IS “has recently been escalating its deadly military attacks… aiming to cause as many deaths as possible”.

By doing so, the extremists are trying to send “a message aimed at showing the group is still active and powerful despite the targeting of its leaders”, he told AFP.

Last week, IS announced the death of its leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi, who it said was killed in clashes in northwestern Syria.