Two Turkish soldiers killed as Syrian rebels regain key town

Two Turkish soldiers have been killed and two others wounded in an air strike in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib as Turkey-backed Syrian rebels regained a key town during heavy fighting.

Hours after the seizure of Saraqeb, Syrian government forces launched a major counterattack.

The latest casualties brought the number of Turkish security personnel killed during the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive in Idlib this month to 19.

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels said on Thursday they recaptured the strategic town – the first significant reverse for the Syrian army operation that has made swift gains.

From inside Saraqeb, activist Taher al-Omar said the town was now under opposition control. He posted a video with a fighter saying the government forces “ran away like rats”.

Three weeks ago, opposition fighters lost the key northwestern town at the junction of two main highways following rapid advances by Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad in their bid to retake Idlib.

“The city of Saraqeb has been liberated completely from Assad’s gangs,” Naji al-Mustafa, a spokesman for a Turkey-backed coalition of rebel factions, the National Liberation Front, said in a statement.

Syria’s state news agency SANA acknowledged there were “fierce clashes” between the army and “terrorist groups on the Saraqeb front”.

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