Syrian Rebels Seize Key Provincial City

Fighters smash statue of President Assad's father

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 4, 2013 3:20 PM CST

(Newser) – Syrian rebels today captured most of the key north-central city of Raqqa, possibly dashing President Bashar al-Assad's hope of ever reclaiming northern and eastern Syria, the New York Times reports. The rebels posted a video of them destroying a statue of al-Assad's father—former President Hafez al-Assad—in Raqqa's main square and smashing its head. Only the city's military security building remained under regime control, according to an activist, who said that "clashes are raging there right now."

After attacking Raqqa for days, rebels penetrated when government forces fled the city's main prison. Insurgents from the Al Nusra Front and other groups quickly claimed the prison and freed hundreds of prisoners. Elsewhere in Syria, activists said fighting resumed in Homs yesterday after Assad forces tried to oust rebels there with tanks and warplanes. And nearly 50 Syrian and Iraqi soldiers were killed in an ambush near a border crossing in Iraq.

In this image taken from video, a statue of Hafez Assad, father of Syrian President Bashar Assad, burns after being set on fire by rebel fighters in Al-Raqqa, Syria, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)
In this image taken from video, Free Syrian Army soldiers sit at a check point in Ain al-Arous town in Raqqa, Syria on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012.   (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video)
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A video posted by Syrian rebels in Raqqa.   (YouTube)

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