BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters took control of the Syrian town of Maheen in the southwest of Homs province on Sunday after an attack on government forces in the area, a monitoring group and a statement by the jihadists said.

The attack killed and wounded at least 50 fighters on the government side and brought Islamic State to within 20 kilometers (13 miles) of the main highway that links Damascus to Homs and cities further north, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Clashes also raged on the outskirts of Sadad, a nearby town mostly inhabited by Christians, as Islamic State fighters pressed their advance, the Observatory said.