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BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army said on Thursday that recent advances against Islamic State northeast of Aleppo were a starting point for further operations to drive the jihadist group back and extend government control in the area.

The army's general command said in a statement it had recently recaptured more than 30 towns and farms, confirming advances towards the town of al-Bab which have brought government forces close to areas where Turkish-backed fighters are separately fighting Islamic State.

(Reporting by John Davison and Tom Perry; Editing by Louise Ireland)