Syrian rebels launch assault on Aleppo prison
BY BARBARA SURK | The Associated Press May 15, 2013 8:40AM
Activists say Syrian rebels have detonated two car bombs outside the main prison in the northern city of Aleppo and are trying to storm the facility, where hundreds of regime opponents are believed to be held. | AP Photo
BEIRUT — Syrian rebels launched a coordinated assault on the main prison in the northern city of Aleppo on Wednesday in an attempt to free hundreds of regime opponents believed to be held in the facility, activists said, while an Internet blackout engulfed the country for the second time in two weeks.
Aleppo emerged as one of the major fronts in the country’s civil war after a rebel offensive there in July, and the fighting since then has settled into a bloody stalemate. The city, Syria’s largest, holds strategic and symbolic value, and both sides have taken significant losses in the battle to expand the turf under their control.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels detonated two car bombs simultaneously outside the walls of the central prison Wednesday morning before trying to storm the facility. Fierce clashes are taking place between President Bashar Assad’s troops and opposition fighters around the detention center, according to Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The city’s central prison is believed to be holding some 4,000 prisoners, around 250 of whom are jailed for reasons related to the 26-month-old uprising against Assad’s regime, said Abdul-Rahman, who relies on reports from a network of informants based in Syria.
For weeks, rebel fighters have been battling government troops in the area around the prison to try to seize the facility and free the prisoners. Earlier this month, the rebels overran the headquarters of the government’s anti-terrorism forces that is located near the jail.