Mar 05 2013
Syrian rebels battling troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad overran al-Raqqa after days of fierce fighting, and were now in “near-total control” of the northern city, activists said.
The fall of Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, on Monday is a significant development in the two-year-old revolt against Assad. The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals.
Residents in Raqqa destroyed a statue of late President Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father), according to amateur video footage distributed by activists.
Rebel fighters said loyalist forces were still dug in at the provincial airport 60 km from the city and they remained a threat. A resident said that a Syrian military intelligence compound was not in rebel hands but was surrounded by anti-Assad fighters.
“This is the first provincial capital in Syria where rebels have made such progress. They now have near-total control of Raqqa city, except for some regime positions, including the military security and Baath party headquarters,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP news agency.