DAMASCUS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Syrian troops on Sunday fully recaptured the town of Yabroud, dislodging the rebels from that strategic area north of the capital Damascus, local media said.
The Syrian army killed a large number of militants inside Yabroud, while many others fled out of the town, the official SANA news agency said, adding the troops are currently dismantling roadside bombs planted by rebels.
The pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said clashes are still heard from the town's outskirts, while the central neighborhoods are fully empty of rebel fighters.
It said the clashes over the past 24 hours were "so heavy," as fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front had strongly resisted, but finally fled away after 13 of their field commanders were killed.
The TV said large numbers of rebels have fled to nearby towns of Rankous, Flaita and the border town of Ersal in Lebanon.
The TV aired live footages of Yabroud, showing scenes of destruction. No sign of life or presence of civilians appeared. It said most of the civilians had fled when the battles started to intensify.
In mid-February, the army started a major offensive to recapture Yabroud by securing its surroundings before pressing into the town.
Yabroud, located some 80 km north of Damascus, is an important stronghold of the armed rebels on the slope of the mountainous Qalamoun region. It's near the Lebanese town of Ersal, where the rebels obtained weapons and medical treatment.
Military experts said that recapturing Yabroud will help the government forces secure the international road connecting Damascus and the central province of Homs, as well as some provinces on the Mediterranean coast.