Syrian forces have broken a year-long rebel siege of a prison in the northern city of Aleppo after heavy fighting with al Qaeda fighters and other Islamist brigades, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad entered the prison compound in military vehicles and gunfire was heard, the SOHR said, although this has not been confirmed.
Syrian state media did not report on the fighting around the prison on Thursday, but earlier said Assad’s forces had captured the town of Hailan next to the prison, about 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Aleppo city.
Assad’s forces and rebels have been fighting for two years in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the start of the three-year civil war, and the countryside around it.
Rebels, including fighters from al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, have tried repeatedly to storm the prison and free its inmates, bombing and breaching its outer walls but failing to take full control. The complex holds around 3,000 prisoners.
The recapture of the prison and its surroundings means that Assad’s forces have control over the north-east approach to Aleppo, the Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman said.
The anti-Assad Observatory, which monitors the violence in Syria through a network of activists and medical and military sources, says more than 162,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which grew out of protests against Assad’s rule.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-05-22