Islamist fighters in Syria battled president Bashar al-Assad's forces for control of a border crossing with Turkey close to the Mediterranean yesterday in an offensive aimed at opening up a rebel link to the sea.

Heavy clashes continued around the crossing and village of Kasab, five miles from the coast, a day after rebels launched their assault.

Assad's forces have already lost control of most border crossings to Turkey in the three-year civil war but had held on to Kasab, gateway to the coastal province of Latakia which has remained an Assad stronghold.

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