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May 16, 3:00 PM EDT

Hezbollah leader says extremists losing ground in Syria


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BEIRUT (AP) -- The leader of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group says Sunni extremists have been pushed out of large areas of a mountain range along the Lebanese-Syrian border in fighting over the past week.

In a televised speech Saturday, he said Hezbollah fighters working with Syrian government forces have seized a large swath of the strategic Qalamoun region.

The Iranian-backed Shiite group and Syrian troops are fighting the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate. The mountain range is close to Syria's capital, Damascus, and links it to the coastal heartland of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Nasrallah said 13 Hezbollah fighters and seven Syrian soldiers have been killed in Qalamoun over the past week.

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