Posted by: Chuck | September 10, 2013

Syria rebels seize famed Christian town Maalula

Syrian rebels, including jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda, have taken control of the historic Christian town of Maalula north of Damascus, a watchdog and residents said on Sunday. The town, home to around 5,000 people, is strategically important for rebels, who are trying to tighten their grip around the capital and already have bases south and west of Damascus. Maalula, around 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Damascus, could also be used as a launching point for attacks on the highway between the capital and Homs, a key regime supply route. The battle for the town left at least 17 rebels dead and more than 100 wounded overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that dozens of regime forces and pro-militia members were also killed or wounded.

“Overnight, Syrian regime troops moved into the village, but rebel forces sent reinforcements and were able to take control of the entire town,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. He said Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was among the forces that had taken control of the town.

Battalions affiliated with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army had also entered Maalula, he said. A resident, reached by phone, confirmed that regime forces had withdrawn and rebel forces were now in control. (Source: AFP news and Yahoo News 9/9/13)




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