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ISIS militants capture key Syrian town

BEIRUT — A powerful truck bomb exploded Friday in a government-held village in central Syria, killing at least 34 civilians and wounding more than 50, as an Al Qaeda breakaway group captured a major town to the east, near the Iraqi border, activists said.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria stormed the town of Muhassan on the Euphrates river after rebels from the Western-backed Supreme Military Council defected to the jihadi group, activists said. The village is in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour where the Islamic State has been on the offensive since late April against rival jihadi and Islamist groups.

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The capture of Muhassan, about 60 miles from the Iraqi border, and two nearby villages, comes a week after the group swept across wide areas in northern and central Iraq, capturing that country’s second largest city of Mosul, and carving out a large region straddling the border.

‘‘The capture of Muhassan is one of the biggest victories for the Islamic State in Deir el-Zour because it is home of the main center of the military council in the province,’’ said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

An activist based in the province who goes by the name Abu Abdullah said residents told him that Islamic State fighters raised their black flags around the town. He added via Skype that many of the rebels in Muhassan expressed loyalty to the group.

The Islamic State’s seven-week offensive in Deir el-Zour against rival groups including the Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham has killed more than 640 people and uprooted at least 130,000, according to activists.

Earlier Friday, state news agency SANA said the truck bomb exploded in Horrah village in the countryside near the central city of Hama. It quoted an unnamed official in the Hama police command as saying that the truck was loaded with about three tons of explosives.

The attack ‘‘caused the destruction of a large number of houses and buildings in the village,’’ the report said.

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