Maalula battle: Scores of militants killed in clashes

Maalula battle: Scores of militants killed in clashes
Mon Sep 16, 2013 15:53:16

Hundreds of al-Nusra Front militants have been killed in clashes with the Syrian army in the Syrian Christian town of Maalula, as they tried to enter and occupy the area.

Fighting over the town, 55km (34 miles) north of Damascus, began last week after al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front militants attacked the town to oust Syrian army forces.

Al-Nusra Front fighters first attacked the village last Wednesday. The following seven days saw Maaloula torn between the militants and Syrian army forces, with both occasionally gaining control.

According to residents, militants resorted to looting and executions in the couple of days which they gained power in the town.

People have been witnessing brutal scenes of killing and torture in some areas of the country which have been occupied and controlled by anti-Syria groups.

Fierce clashes have been going on in the last days, including on Monday, between the two sides with some of the residents joining the Syrian army in defending their hometown and some other fleeing to safer areas, including into Damascus.

Maaloula has several churches and important monasteries, including Deir Mar Takla, which is visited by many Christians and Muslim pilgrims. Inscriptions found in some of the caves in the mountainside on which the town sits confirm it as one of the earliest centers of Christianity in the world, and some residents can still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

Militants have been attacking neighboring villages to set up their bases for their assaults on Maalula, while they have been shelling the town from surrounding mountains and caves.

As the Syrian government is struggling with internal and external threats of wider conflicts, people have been forced to live under strict rules imposed by some of the militant groups who benefit international silence on their crimes.

A US plan to bomb the country over a chemical attack near Syrian capital on August 21 was canceled with Russia’s mediation that sought to ease the tensions by putting Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons under international control.

The offer was widely welcomed both in Syria and other countries that were concerned by US military ambitions and its regional consequences.


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