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Middle East

Syria rebels 'capture most of police academy'

More than 200 troops and rebels reported killed in fighting for one of last regime bastions in western Aleppo province.
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2013 17:33
Police academy in Khan al-Assal town remains one of the regime's last bastions in the west of Aleppo [YouTube]

Syrian rebels have seized control of most of a police academy in the northern province of Aleppo in fierce fighting that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday at least 200 troops and rebels were killed after eight days of clashes in Khan al-Assal town.

The UK-based group said at least 120 army troops were among those killed in the battle for one of the last remaining bastions of the President Bashar al-Assad government in western Aleppo province. On Sunday, rebels killed more than 34 troops at the facility.

A police source in Aleppo confirmed that much of the academy had fallen into rebel hands, reporting that 40 security forces were believed dead. As many as 300 rebels were among those killed, he said.

The reports of violence came as opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib visited rebel-held areas in the outskirts of Aleppo.

The trip by the head of Syrian National Coalition was intended to strengthen ties between the main opposition coalition and rebels inside the country, an aide said.

Khatib, who fled Syria last year after being imprisoned several times, entered northern Syria from Turkey and toured the towns of Jarablus and Minbij.

Elsewhere, two mortars hit an area near Umayyad square in the heart of Damascus, close to a duty-free zone and customs offices, Syrian state media said, reporting no casualties.

The affected area is home to the state television building, the Assad Library and the army general command headquarters.

Also on Sunday, rebels in the southern province of Daraa seized an artillery battalion in Jamla village near the armistice line with Israel, according to the Observatory.

Eight rebel fighters were killed in the battle, the group said, adding that the insurgents summarily executed the commander of the captured battalion.

In an unprecedented escalation of violence in the coastal province of Latakia, a regime stronghold, at least 15 rebel fighters were killed in a battle against troops, the Observatory said.

The army seized eight small villages in Al-Alwan area of the Jabal Turkman region of Latakia that had fallen into rebel hands in late 2012, a military official told the AFP news agency.

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