Friday 19 January 2018

Fighters trap 200 in Syria mosque

Fernande van Tets Beirut

TWO hundred civilians were reported to be trapped inside a mosque in a suburb of Damascus last night as fighting continued to rage outside between opposition fighters and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The country's main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, called on the United Nations to send "a strong warning" to President Assad that he "must immediately release" the civilians pinned inside Qaboun, a suburb to the north of the Syrian capital.

The coalition warned of a "massacre of thousands of civilians", as a large number of armoured vehicles and elite forces reportedly entered the area late on Saturday night.

Another opposition group, the Local Co-ordination Committees, claimed that most of the civilians held in the al-Omari mosque were women and children.

It also reported that 11 people had died in heavy fighting in the area yesterday.

Infighting among rebel forces has reportedly continued in the wake of Thursday's assassination of Kamal Hamami, a leading member of the Free Syrian Army, by the al-Qa'ida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes between FSA fighters and Islamic State militants at a checkpoint in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood in the south of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, FSA colonel Abu al-Tayeb claimed his men had managed to drive the rebels out of the area.

Irish Independent

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