6 Jun 2013

Syria troops oust rebels from strategic town

8:53 am on 6 June 2013

Syrian government forces have recaptured the strategic town of Qusair after a siege lasting more than two weeks.

State television says a large number of rebels were killed and many others surrendered as government troops gained control, while the rebels say they withdrew overnight.

The town had been the focus of fierce fighting for more than two weeks between rebels and troops backed by a pro-government militia and fighters from the militant Lebanese Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah,

Qusair lies only 10 kilometres from the Lebanese border and is close to important supply routes for both the government and rebels.

The government says recapturing the town is an important strategic victory.

BBC journalists taken by government forces to Qusair said it was in ruins, and there were few civilians.

Meanwhile, the US and Russia have failed to set a date for proposed peace talks.

The UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the international conference might now be held in July, rather than June as had been planned.