DAMASCUS, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Syrian government troops on Monday recaptured a historic Christian town north of the capital Damascus, the official SANA news agency reported.
"Units of the Syrian army have restored security and stability to the town of Maaloula and currently hunting down terrorists in its vicinity," SANA said.
Late last year, radical jihadists from the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front stormed and fully controlled Maaloula, a rugged region known as al-Qalamoun, 55 km north of Damascus.
The town is crucial for the rebels who hope to tighten their grip on areas surrounding Damascus.
The recapture of Maaloula would help government troops secure the international road that connects Damascus with central and northern provinces.
Churches and monasteries in Maaloula have been largely damaged, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen television reported.
Maaloula, known as one of three places where Western Aramaic is still spoken, holds its significance as it's deemed as one of the oldest cradles of Christianity in Syria.