BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops reached a besieged prison Thursday in the northern city of Aleppo, ending a monthslong attempt by rebels to free the inmates inside, a Syrian activist group and pro-government television stations reported.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right, which has a network of activists around the country, said government forces entered the prison at dawn, ending a siege that began in April 2013.
Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen and Al-Manar television stations, which are close to the Syrian government and have reporters in different parts of Syria, said government troops ended the siege.
The sprawling prison, which holds an estimated 4,000 inmates, has witnessed deadly clashes between government and opposition forces for the past year. Rebels repeatedly have barreled suicide car bombs into the front gates and fought guards and troops holed up inside.
On Tuesday, government forces, backed by the air force, began a final push toward the prison. The Observatory said there are fears that government forces might kill some of the inmates and “claim that they died during the rebels’ siege of the prison.”
Aleppo has been carved into rebel- and government-controlled areas since opposition fighters launched an offensive in the north in mid-2012. The Syrian army appears intent on taking opposition-held parts of the country’s major cities before the country’s June presidential election.
Activists say more than 160,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as largely peaceful protests against President Bashar Assad’s rule that deteriorated into civil war. The fighting has also uprooted nine million people from their homes, with over six million Syrians seeking shelter in safer parts of the country and at least 2.7 million fleeing to neighboring countries.