The Latest: Russia defense minister meets with Syria's Assad

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This frame grab from video posted online Monday, March 18, 2019, by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, shows IS fighters walking as they hold the group's flag inside Baghouz, the Islamic State group's last pocket of territory in Syria. U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group announced Tuesday they have taken control over an encampment in an eastern Syrian village where IS militants have been besieged for months, refusing to surrender. (Aamaq News Agency via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

Russia's defense minister has visited Damascus to deliver a letter from President Vladimir Putin to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that during Tuesday's visit, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Assad "discussed the issues related to fighting international terrorism along with various aspects of Mideast security and post-conflict settlement."

It said the talks also focused on efforts to help Syrian refugees return and to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Shoigu said Western nations have sought to "hamper positive changes in Syria and create new obstacles for ending the crisis."

Russia launched a military intervention in Syria in September 2015, eventually helping Assad's forces to regain large areas of the country. Western nations supported the Syrian opposition, and have refused to aid in Syria's reconstruction without a political settlement.

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5:15 p.m.

A Kurdish force fighting the Islamic State group in Syria is confirming the death of an Italian national killed while battling the extremist group.

The People's Protection Units, or YPG, say Lorenzo Orsetti, 33, joined their ranks in 2017 and died on Monday during operations to capture the last area occupied by IS in the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

The extremist group had claimed Monday the killing of five U.S.-backed fighters, including Orsetti, publishing pictures of his body and his documents.

The Italian news agency ANSA confirmed Orsetti's death. His father told ANSA he was proud his son, who "died for a cause he believed in."

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2:40 p.m.

A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria says they have captured a group of suspects involved in a January bombing that killed four Americans in a town in northern Syria.

Mustafa Bali says the suspects were captured following technical surveillance by the group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. He did not elaborate on the number of suspects or when they were captured.

The Americans were killed in a suicide bombing in January in the town of Manbij that was claimed by IS.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, he said the outcome of the ongoing investigation will be shared at a later time.

Bali's statement came few hours after the SDF said it had captured an IS encampment in the eastern village of Baghouz after IS militants surrendered.

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11:35 a.m.

A spokesman for U.S.-backed forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria says his fighters are in control of an encampment in the village of Baghouz where IS militants have been besieged for months.

Mustafa Bali, of the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, says clashes however are continuing elsewhere in the village in eastern Syria as IS militants continue to fight back.

Bali says on Twitter on Tuesday that controlling the encampment in Baghouz marks "significant progress" in the fight but that it's "not a victory announcement."

The area held by IS in Baghouz is the last pocket of territory in Syria controlled by the extremist group, which once held a vast area of Syria and Iraq, calling it an Islamic "caliphate."