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IS destroys Syria prison as bombing kills scores

Updated: 2015-06-01 07:28
By Agencies in Beirut, Lebanon (China Daily)

Islamic State group jihadists demolished a notorious government prison in the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on Saturday, as barrel bombs dropped by government helicopters killed more than 70 civilians in Aleppo.

In neighboring Iraq, government forces retook an area west of Ramadi, which IS overran earlier in May.

Observers said IS planted explosives that "largely destroyed" the Palmyra jail, which was for decades a symbol of abuses meted out on government opponents.

Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad welcomed on social media the destruction of the long-feared prison at Palmyra, which IS seized 10 days ago after government forces pulled out.

In rebel-held areas of Aleppo province including the city itself, "at least 71 civilians were killed, and dozens wounded when government helicopters dropped barrel bombs," observers said.

In the worst carnage, 59 civilians, all male, were killed at a market in the jihadist-controlled town of Al-Bab, the Britain-based monitoring group's director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

"People often gather on Saturday mornings at the Al-Hail market in Al-Bab, which is why the number of dead was so high," he said.

He said 12 people were also killed in barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo's rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood, including eight members of a single family.

Victims' bodies were laid out on the streets of the neighborhood.

Highest death toll

Barrel bombs - crude weapons made of containers packed with explosives - have often struck schools, hospitals and markets in Syria.

But Saturday's death toll was among the highest.

"This is one of the biggest massacres that government planes have committed since the beginning of 2015," said the Syrian Revolution General Commission activist group.

Observers said government forces also dropped barrel bombs on Friday in Idlib province, now under the de facto control of rebels after government forces withdrew, leaving al-Qaida and its allies to capture Ariha and surrounding villages.

The tactic of carrying out air attacks on built-up areas after battleground losses has become common practice for Syria's government, which ceded swathes of territory in May.

Following defeats in Idlib's provincial capital and at a massive military base nearby, government forces also lost the ancient city of Palmyra to IS jihadists on May 21.

In northeast Syria on Saturday, IS launched an assault on Hasakeh, which has a large Kurdish population.

Observers said at least 10 pro-government forces and 10 jihadists were killed.

In a provincial town to the north, Kurdish militia executed at least 20 civilians Friday, including two children, after accusing them of being IS supporters.

 IS destroys Syria prison as bombing kills scores

A man evacuates a child from a building following a reported barrel bomb attack by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, Syria on Saturday. Karam Almasri / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 06/01/2015 page11)

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