The ISIS group on Thursday seized a key town in central Syria following heavy clashes with President Bashar Assad’s forces, in the militants’ biggest advance since capturing the historic town of Palmyra in May, Syrian activists said.

The heavily populated town of Qaryatain lies southwest of Palmyra, which is home to towering Roman ruins, and some 85 kilometers from Homs city. Its capture allows the ISIS group to link up areas under its control in and around Palmyra with areas in the eastern countryside of Qalamoun in Damascus province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ISIS group seized the town Thursday after three suicide bombers targeted army checkpoints at the entrance the day before, setting off a fierce battle.

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