Syrian army captures Islamic State position, eyes final stronghold

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army and its allies seized an oil pumping station in eastern Syria from Islamic State, paving the way for an advance towards the jihadists’ last remaining Syrian stronghold, a Hezbollah-run news service reported on Thursday.

The “T2” pumping station is “considered a launch pad for the army and its allies to advance towards the town of Albu Kamal ... which is considered the last remaining stronghold of the Daesh organization in Syria”, the report said.

Albu Kamal is located in Deir al-Zor province at the Syrian border with Iraq, just over the frontier from the Iraqi town of al-Qaim. Iraq declared on Thursday the start of an offensive to capture al-Qaim and Rawa, the last patch of Iraqi territory still in IS hands.

Islamic State’s self-declared “caliphate” has crumbled this year with the fall of the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul. In Syria, the group is now mostly confined to a shrinking strip of territory in Deir al-Zor province.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State is waging a separate campaign against the group in Deir al-Zor, focused on areas to the east of the Euphrates River which bisects the province. Albu Kamal is located on the western bank of the river.

Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Robin Pomeroy