Syria Christian town still under militant attack
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Foreign-backed militants continue attacks on a Christian town on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, Press TV reports. Militants targeted Cherubim Monastery, which is located on top of a mountain in Qalamoun region. The armed militants continuously attack the monastery from Rankus village in an effort to reach and take over the town of Saidnaya. On January 19, more than 100 Takfiri militants from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and brigades of the so-called Free Syrian Army were killed during clashes with the Syrian army near the monastery. Syrian troops also seized machineguns, rocket propelled grenades and types of weapons after the clashes. Militants from surrounding areas increased their mortar attacks on Saidnaya following the defeat. A shell hit a school while another fell in the vicinity of Saint George Monastery. Saidnaya is a Christian town that houses some of the oldest convents on earth like the Convent of Our Lady. Its residents support the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Some 1.8 million Christians reside in Syria, making up about 10 percent of the country's population. The religious minority has been subjected to numerous attacks by extremist groups since the outbreak of violence in the country in March 2011. In October 2013, the Syrian army managed to take back control of the ancient Christian town of Sadad, situated north of Damascus, from al-Qaeda-linked militants. In September, members of the al-Nusra Front briefly took over the Christian village of Ma'loula, which is home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Syrian troops have managed to retake most areas of the village.