Syria army recaptures Christian town of Maaloula

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Syrian army has retaken Maaloula in Rif Dimashq Governorate, four months after extremist al-Qaeda-linked militants overran the Christian town, a security official says.

“The army has taken full control of Maaloula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in al-Qalamun,” the official told AFP on Monday, referring to the region in which Maaloula is located.

The recapture comes after a string of successes for the Syrian army in the strategic al-Qalamoun region, including the seizure of the former militant bastion of Yabrud last month.

The main highway linking the capital Damascus to the city of Homs runs through al-Qalamoun, which lies along the border with Lebanon.

Maaloula fell to hands of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front last December, as the armed forces focused their attention on capturing towns along the Damascus-Homs highway.

The picturesque town is considered a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria, and its 5,000 pre-war residents are among the few in the world who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

When the town was taken by militants, 13 nuns were captured from their convent and held by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists until a prisoner swap in March.

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