IS fighters attack government-held areas in central Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group has launched an offensive against government forces in central Syria near the highway that links the capital Damascus to the northern city of Aleppo.

Thursday's attack comes as government forces are on the offensive against the extremists in other parts of Syria.

Syria's state news agency SANA said troops and pro-government gunmen repelled the IS attack on villages in Hama province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS captured several army positions in the area and killed nine troops. It said troops launched a counteroffensive under the cover of airstrikes.

State TV said two people were wounded in IS shelling on the nearby town of Salamiyeh.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency confirmed an attack is ongoing in the area without giving details.