Syrian activists say IS has seized Palmyra

The Latest on the fight against the Islamic State group (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say the Islamic State group has regained control of the ancient town of Palmyra nine months after it was driven out by Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Palmyra Coordination group say IS militants fought their way into the town on Sunday, forcing government forces to retreat to the south.

Russia had earlier said that it helped Syrian troops repel an attack on the town by launching more than 60 airstrikes. IS has been advancing on the town in recent days, capturing areas on its outskirts at a time when Syrian forces are focused on driving rebels out of the northern city of Aleppo.

Noon

Russia says its air force has helped Syrian troops repulse an Islamic State attack on the historic town of Palmyra.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Sunday that it carried out 64 airstrikes overnight that killed 300 IS militants and destroyed the extremists’ vehicles and artillery.

Palmyra is home to towering 2,000-year-old ruins and was a major tourist attraction before the civil war broke out in 2011. IS seized the town last year and held it for 10 months before being driven out by Russian-backed Syrian forces in March.

The militants have advanced on Palmyra in recent days, with reports of heavy fighting within the town itself. Syria’s army has been largely focused on the northern city of Aleppo, where it is waging a major offensive against Syrian rebels.