Syria army soldiers battle militants in Christian village Maaloula

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Syrian army soldiers are battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in and around a Christian mountain village in the west of the country. The foreign-backed militants launched an assault on the ancient Christian village of Maaloula on Wednesday after an al-Nusra Front fighter blew himself up in front of an army checkpoint outside the village. The militants then seized a mountaintop hotel and began shelling the community there. They also reportedly surrounded a church and a mosque before the Syrian government forces fought them off to retake the village, located some 60 km northeast of the capital Damascus, on Thursday. More clashes have occurred in the mountains around the village between government troops and al-Qaeda linked fighters. Home to around 2,000 people, the village of Maaloula has been registered on the UNESCO list of tentative world heritage sites. Some villagers there still speak a version of Aramaic, an ancient language believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ. The attack came amid the rising talk of a US war against Syria. The rhetoric of war against the Arab country first gained momentum on August 21, when the militants operating inside Syria and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed that over a thousand people had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in several suburbs of Damascus. The Syrian government categorically rejected the accusation and said the militants had conducted the attack to draw in foreign military intervention amid the recent advances made the Syrian army against militants operating in the country.

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