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Syrian Troops Seize Major Rebel Town Near Lebanon

Syrian troops have seized a major rebel-held town near the Lebanese border.

State media and activists say Syrian soldiers took control Sunday of Yabroud, the rebels' last stronghold in the Qalamoun region, where government forces have been trying to sever rebel supply lines across the border.

State media report that Syrian military forces are combing through Yabroud and removing explosive devices planted by the rebels.

A spokesman for the Syrian Army told VOA Sunday the capture of Yabroud will allow the government to choke off the rebels' access to supplies in neighboring Lebanon.

But a rebel fighter told al Arabiya TV that pockets of rebel forces are still holding out in portions of Yabroud, after pulling out of the city center. He said the Syrian army had been pounding rebel positions for days.

More than 140,000 people have been killed and another 2.5 million have fled the country since Syria's civil war began in March 2011. The conflict started with mass street protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and turned into an insurgency after a violent crackdown on demonstrators.

In another development, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a top commander of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked group, was killed Friday in Yabroud during clashes between the army and Hezbollah fighters.

The observatory said Abu Azzam al-Kuwaiti was a leader of al-Nusra in the Qalamoun region, saying he helped negotiate a prisoner swap that saw rebels recently release more than a dozen Christian nuns.

Hezbollah - the Lebanese militant group - has been fighting in the war alongside forces loyal to Mr. Assad.

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