Rebels blow up historic Aleppo hotel in Syria

Comment: Off

This image made from amateur video posted by Shaam News Network (SNN), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows an explosion that destroyed the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The rebel-claimed bombing Thursday in the northern Syrian city leveled the once luxurious hotel near the ancient Citadel that government troops used as a military base, causing multiple casualties, activists and militants said.(AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

This image made from amateur video posted by Shaam News Network (SNN), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows an explosion that destroyed the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The rebel-claimed bombing Thursday in the northern Syrian city leveled the once luxurious hotel near the ancient Citadel that government troops used as a military base, causing multiple casualties, activists and militants said.(AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

This image made from amateur video posted by Shaam News Network (SNN), an anti-Bashar Assad activist group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows an explosion that destroyed the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. The rebel-claimed bombing Thursday in the northern Syrian city leveled the once luxurious hotel near the ancient Citadel that government troops used as a military base, causing multiple casualties, activists and militants said.(AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

Syrian government forces inspect damages in Homs, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Carrying their rifles and small bags of belongings, hundreds of exhausted Syrian rebels withdrew Wednesday from their last remaining strongholds in the heart of Homs, surrendering to President Bashar Assad a bloodstained city that was once the center of the revolt against him. (AP Photo)

Syrian government forces look at damages in the old city of Homs, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in the north prepared to regain control of the central city of Homs following last week’s cease-fire agreement after a fierce, two-year battle with the rebels trying to oust him. Rebels were completing their withdrawal from Homs on Thursday, a day after hundreds of fighters evacuated from the city under the cease-fire deal. (AP Photo)

A Syrian government solider looks at damaged buildings in Homs, Syria, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Hundreds of exhausted Syrian rebels withdrew Wednesday from their last remaining strongholds in the heart of Homs, surrendering to President Bashar Assad a bloodstained city that was once the center of the revolt against him. (AP Photo)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels bombed a once luxurious, historic hotel being used as a government army base in the northern city of Aleppo on Thursday, levelling the building and causing multiple casualties in a giant explosion carried off by digging tunnels under the complex, activists and militants said.

The blast set off a gigantic mushroom cloud next to the historic citadel of Aleppo, collapsing the Carlton Hotel in a government-held area near the front lines in a the city, which has been one of the bloodiest and destructive battlegrounds of Syria’s civil war.

The attack was a powerful show by rebels that they can still deal heavy blows at a time of a significant defeat elsewhere. Rebels on Thursday completed their withdrawal from Homs in a negotiated evacuation that surrenders Syria’s third largest city to full government control for the first time in more than two years. Syrian state TV announced that the last of the rebels left Homs by the afternoon.

The death toll from the Aleppo bombing was not immediately known.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains a network of activists on the ground, said at least 14 soldiers were killed in the blast. The Islamic Front, Syria’s biggest rebel alliance which claimed the attack, claimed to have killed 50 soldiers. Both groups did not say how they know how many soldiers died, and the claims could not be independently verified.

In a live broadcast from the site of blast, Syrian state TV’s correspondent in Aleppo stood on a huge pile of rubble with twisted metal and palm trees sticking out, saying that the army had been using the building as a base and soldiers were positioned there at the time of the explosion.

The report did not mention casualties. The Syrian government does not publicize its casualties in the civil war.

The correspondent said the rebels blew up the building by tunneling underneath and planting explosives.

“They use tunnels like rats because they cannot face the Syrian Arab Army,” the correspondent said, adding that the explosion felt like an earthquake to those around Aleppo.

The attack was the second carried out by the Islamic Front against the Carlton. The first, allegedly carried out also through explosives-packed tunnels, caused a partial collapse of the building in February. The Front, an alliance of several Islamic groups fighting to topple Assad, appears to favor this technique and has used it to carry out deadly attacks against government forces in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

Thursday’s explosion was much more powerful and sent an enormous mushroom of gray smoke into the sky and over the ancient city, according to a video posted online by activists. The video appeared genuine, matching Associated Press’ reporting on the blast.

The explosion was a blow to President Bashar Assad’s government in the north as his troops regained control of Homs under a cease-fire reached with rebels last week after a fierce, two-year battle with the rebels trying to oust him.

In the afternoon, a banner on Syrian TV said the last of the rebels left the city, proclaiming, “Old Homs is totally clean of armed terrorist groups” — the term used by the government for the rebels. Homs Gov. Talal Barazi said earlier in the day that more than 1,500 fighters left the city since Wednesday.

Comments

comments

About the Author