BEIRUT (AP) — An Islamist faction of Syrian rebels captured an infantry base in the northern city of Aleppo, its fighters said Sunday, as rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad advance on the country’s largest city.
It was the second major army installation the rebels overran in a week in Aleppo, as the civil war closes in on Assad’s troops and fighting intensifies in and around the capital, Damascus. The fighters have also seized air bases near both cities in recent weeks.
A statement by the al-Tawheed Brigade said the rebels “fully liberated” the military facility in Aleppo on Saturday. It was posted on al-Tawheed’s official website on Sunday and said the brigade’s commander, Col. Youssef al-Jader know as Abu Furat, was killed in the battle for the military facility.
Al-Tawheed Brigade is one of the largest rebel groups operating in Aleppo, which has been a major front in the civil war since July.
One of the videos posted on the group’s website shows the body of a man the narrator says is “the hero and martyr who was killed on the day of liberating the infantry school.” A boy said to be Abu Furat’s son is seen crying as he leans over the dead man.
Rebels are seen loading boxes of ammunition onto a truck, with several tanks and armored vehicles parked nearby.
Another video shows several rebels praying on the premises of the captured base. Armed fighters are also seen walking around the infantry school with slogans “Assad Forever” painted on the walls. Pictures of Assad and his late father, Hafez, still hang on the walls.
The Assad family has ruled Syria with an iron fist for more than 40 years.
The uprising against the family started in March 2011 as peaceful protests, but quickly turned into civil war after the government’s brutal crackdown on dissent.
Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed in almost 21 months of conflict that has increasingly sectarian overtones.
The opposition fighters mostly come from Syria’s majority Sunni Muslim community. Assad’s regime is dominated by members of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.