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Syria rebels capture governor of Raqa province: NGO
Governor of northern Syrian province is captured a day after rebels take control of Raqa, in what is viewed to be one of biggest victories since the outbreak of the anti-regime insurgency
AFP , Tuesday 5 Mar 2013
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Statue of President Bashar Al-Assad's father, Hafez Al-Assad, is pulled down as people celebrate in Raqqa, Monday (Photo: Reuters)

Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces captured the governor of the northern province of Raqa after overrunning the provincial capital, a watchdog said on Tuesday.

A short amateur video filmed by rebels and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed the governor, Hassan Jalili, and Suleiman Suleiman, the ruling Baath party's secretary general for Raqa province, seated among rebels.

"All we want is to get rid of the regime," an unidentified rebel tells the captives, who can be seen sitting in silence, wearing dark suits and pale blue shirts.

"This is the highest profile capture by rebels of a regime official. Raqa has suffered a lot because of the governor's corruption," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Jalili's capture came a day after rebels overran the provincial capital Raqa, in their biggest victory since the outbreak of the anti-regime insurgency almost two years ago.

Though insurgents took most of Raqa on Monday, troops and pro-regime militia fought on during the night near the military intelligence headquarters in the city, said the Observatory.

"New army reinforcements are on their way to Raqa. We have yet to see whether they will make it into the city or not," Abdel Rahman said.

On Monday, after the fall of much of Raqa to rebel hands, the army had used warplanes and tanks to bombard the city.

Elsewhere, fresh clashes broke out on Tuesday pitting rebels against troops in insurgent enclaves of the city of Homs, in central Syria, said the Observatory.

The battles come three days into a fierce army and pro-regime militia campaign to reclaim rebel belts in the heart of Homs, dubbed by anti-Assad activists as "the capital of the revolution".

An activist in the rebel-held Old City district of Homs, which has been under army siege for eight months, compared Tuesday's round of fighting to "a war of attrition", as rebels fought off the onslaught and both sides sustained heavy casualties.

"Everywhere you look, it's raining bullets," said Abu Bilal. "Everything in the Old City is burning."

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of activists, meanwhile reported "heavy rocket shelling and tank fire on the (nearby) district of Khaldiyeh, while loud explosions shook the neighbourhood and fierce clashes raged".

Some 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict, the UN says.



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