Syrian troops, backed by Russian forces, have recaptured Al Qaryatain from Islamic State militants (Isis/Daesh), who have controlled the town since August. After a fierce offensive to rescue it from the jihadists, soldiers loyal to the Assad regime have begun patrolling the town, most of which has been completely destroyed. Al-Qaryatain is one of the many areas controlled by IS that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been trying to retake in an attempt to reduce the extremist group's military power.

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Buildings are in ruins in the town of Al-QaryatainJosepth Eid/ AFP
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A Syrian soldier sets fire to an Islamic State flag after troops regained control of Al-QaryatainJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Syrian soldiers on patrol having regained control of the town of Al-QaryatainJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Home-made bombs in a shop at Al-QaryatainJosepth Eid/ AFP

When under the control of the IS, Al Qaryatain saw a 1,600-year-old Christian monastery demolished. The building was dedicated to Syrian Catholic Saint Elian, who lived in the fifth century AD, and it had been a popular pilgrimage site for Christians in the Middle East. "There were holy sculptures and paintings, which are of great importance to Christians and Muslims living here. They are the commonwealth of human beings but were destroyed by the extremists," Hayat Awwad, an official of the Syrian Information Ministry told Reuters.

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A partially burnt church at the monastery of Syrian Catholic Saint Elian, who lived in the fifth century AD, in the town of Al-QaryatainJosepth Eid/ AFP
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A church at the monastery of Syrian Catholic Saint ElianJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Destroyed graves at the monastery of Syrian Catholic Saint ElianJosepth Eid/ AFP
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A burnt altar in a church at the monastery of Saint ElianJosepth Eid/ AFP
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The inside of the monastery of Saint ElianJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Destroyed graves at the monastery of Syrian Catholic Saint ElianJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Remains which were found near the destroyed stone sarcophagus of Syrian Catholic Saint Elian Josepth Eid/ AFP
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The ruins of the monastery of Syrian Catholic Saint Elian Josepth Eid/ AFP
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A broken plate bearing the name of Syrian Catholic Saint Elian Josepth Eid/ AFP
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Combination photo showing the destruction the Islamic State caused to the monastery of Syriac Catholic Saint Elian in al-Qaryatain (top) and Palmyra's Temple of BelJosepth Eid/ AFP

The recapture of Al Qaryatain comes just one week after the retaking of the ancient city of Palmyra. The seizing of Al-Qaryatain will now allow the Syrian army to secure its grip over Palmyra, where jihadists destroyed ancient temples during their 10-month rule and executed 280 people.

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A partial view of the Roman theatre in the ancient city of Palmyra central SyriaJosepth Eid/ AFP
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The remains of the Arch of Triumph, also called the Monumental Arch of Palmyra, in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which was destroyed by jihadists of the Islamic State in 2015Josepth Eid/ AFP
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Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle in the ancient city of PalmyraJosepth Eid/ AFP
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Pieces of beheaded and mutilated sculptures on the ground at the museum of the ancient city of PalmyraJosepth Eid/ AFP