Syrian activists say ISIS has seized a key town in central Syria following clashes with President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The town of Qaryatain lies southwest of the historic town of Palmyra, which the extremist group seized in May. The capture of Qaryatain, a heavily populated town, allows the ISIS to link up areas under its control in and around Palmyra with areas in the eastern countryside of Qalamoun north of Damascus.

The Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says ISIS seized the town Thursday after three suicide bombers targeted army checkpoints at the entrance the day before, setting off a fierce battle.

Websites affiliated with the ISIS confirmed the militants had taken over Qaryatain.