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Syrian army captures town near key highway

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 9, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.

BEIRUT — Syrian troops captured a western town near the country's main north-south highway Monday as the government forged ahead with a punishing offensive in a mountainous region near the border with Lebanon, state media said.

According to the reports, the troops took full control of Nabek a day after taking the nearby highway that links the capital, Damascus, with the central city of Homs. The highway is critical for the overland transport of Syria's chemical weapons to a port from where the arms would be shipped for destruction abroad or at sea.

But Syrian activists disputed the state media reports and said the rebels still hold part of Nabek. The area has strategic value for both sides in Syria's conflict, now in its third year. The highway serves as a crucial link between Damascus and the country's north, as well as government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said last week that it would consider using the road to transport the chemical weapons to the port of Latakia.

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