Syrian insurgents kill at least 9 soldiers in attack in the country’s northwest

BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaida-linked militants attacked an army position in northwest Syria on Friday, killing at least nine government soldiers and wounding others, opposition activists said. There was no immediate word from the government.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said nine soldiers died as well as one of the attackers, who belong to the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, the strongest insurgent group in northwest Syria. It said 12 soldiers and one HTS member were wounded in the attack.

Taher al-Omar, an opposition activist who closely follows HTS, said the attack in the northwestern province of Latakia killed 18 soldiers and several others.

The attack came less than a week after insurgents in northwest Syria attacked an army position, killing and wounding more than 30 troops.

In another part of north Syria, Turkey-backed opposition gunmen briefly captured the village of Mahsanli, which is controlled by Kurdish fighters. The Kurdish forces regained control of the village in a counteroffensive hours later, the Syrian Observatory said.

The Kurdish-led Manbij Military Council, part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, said the situation in Mahsanli was again under control after several Turkey-backed gunmen were killed. Opposition activists reported a Russian airstrike on the village after it fell into the hands of opposition fighters.

A truce reached between Russia and Turkey in March 2020 that ended a Russian-backed government offensive on Idlib province has been repeatedly violated, resulting in scores of people getting killed and wounded.

Syria’s 12-year conflict, which started with anti-government protests and morphed into a civil war, has killed half a million people and displaced half the country’s prewar population of 23 million. More than 5 million Syrians are now refugees, most in neighboring countries.

Russia has been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and joined the war in September 2015, helping tip the balance of power in his favor. Turkey is a main backer of the armed opposition.

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