Syrian army says it captured strategic town in coastal area

AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army backed by heavy Russian aerial bombing said on Thursday it had captured the town of Kansaba in the northern countryside of the coastal province of Latakia. The capture of the town in the northeastern mountainous region allows the army and its Iranian-backed allies to begin wider operations to regain rebel held town of Jisr al Shughour, northeast of Kansaba in Idlib province. The army said the recapture of the Latakia countryside allows it to begin a major operation to regain the northwestern province of Idlib, which is mainly in the hands of hardline Islamist groups. The army has been able to regain large parts of the Latakia countryside in recent weeks, seizing the two main rebel strongholds of Salma and Rabiya in an offensive aided by heavy Russian firepower. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Dominic Evans)