Rebels in Aleppo take army outpost

Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib visited rebel-held towns in north Syria for the first time yesterday as rebel fighters seized an army outpost from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces outside the contested northern city of Aleppo, activists said.

The capture of the police academy at Khan al-Asal, used by Assad’s forces as an artillery base to support troops still holding around 40 per cent of the northern city, came after days of fighting in which rebels killed 150 soldiers, while sustaining heavy casualties, they said.

In an attempt to consolidate those gains on the ground and strengthen links between Assad’s military and civilian foes, Alkhatib crossed into northern Syria from neighbouring Turkey and toured the towns of Jarablus and Minbij.

Earlier he attended a meeting of 220 rebel commanders and opposition campaigners in the Turkish city of Gaziantep to elect an administration for Aleppo province, home to six million people.

Alkhatib, a 52-year-old former preacher at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, was chosen in November to head the coalition of political opposition to Assad. He won modest pledges of support for the rebels from Western and Arab ministers in Rome last week.

He has also said he is ready for talks with representatives of Assad’s government to help find a political solution to a conflict which erupted nearly two years ago and has descended into a civil war in which around 70,000 people have been killed.

Assad, in an interview with British newspaper The Sunday Times, said his government was prepared to talk to fighters who lay down their weapons but insisted he would not leave the country or step aside under foreign pressure.


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