Syrian army troops have overrun rebel strongholds in the mountains of western Latakia province, according to government and opposition accounts on Sunday, marking the latest government gains before peace talks slated to begin this week in Geneva.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad swept through the town of Rabiaa and nearby villages close to the Turkish border, according to the official Syrian media and a pro-opposition monitoring group.

The army advanced “after violent clashes against Islamic battalions” including a-Qaida-affiliated Jabat al Nusrah, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitor based in Britain. Syrian and Russian warplanes backed the thrust, the observatory said. […]