Syrian army captures Islamic State village near Aleppo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army captured the small town of Deir Hafer east of Aleppo from Islamic State on Wednesday, a Syrian military source said, part of its operations to drive back the jihadist group and consolidate its control in that area.

It was the site of an important Islamic State headquarters and contained a command and control centre, an arms manufacturing site, field hospitals and highly engineered fortifications, the source said.

The army surrounded and besieged it days ago as part of its campaign to recapture the areas to the east of Aleppo, including an important water supply facility for the city that it took earlier this month, and a military airbase.

The army's advance is one of three rival offensives to have captured large areas of ground from Islamic State in northern Syria in recent months.

Turkey-backed rebels who oppose the Syrian army have also seized a pocket of territory along the Turkish frontier to the north of Deir Hafer.

A U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces, has captured swathes of land east of the Euphrates and is working to isolate Islamic State's bastion of Raqqa, which it expects to assault in early April.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Julia Glover)

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