Syria’s president has hailed his forces’ recapture of the famed ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State.
Bashar al Assad said it was an “important achievement” and showed his army and his allies’ success in combating terrorism, while the military claimed IS was beginning to retreat and collapse.
Government troops and militiamen, backed by Russian airstrikes, have seized back full control of Palmyra which fell to IS in 2015.
It marks the biggest reversal for the extremist group since Moscow’s intervention last September in the five-year conflict.
Mr Assad was quoted as saying: “The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism.”
Russian leader Vladimir Putin congratulated him on the phone.
Earlier, a military source said: “After heavy fighting during the night, the army is in full control of Palmyra – both the ancient site and the residential neighbourhoods.”
He added: “Army sappers are in the process of defusing dozens of bombs and mines planted inside the ancient site.”
State media and an opposition monitoring group also said Syrian forces had retaken the city, which is known as the “bride of the desert”.
It is home to Roman-era ruins and used to attract tens of thousands of tourists every year.