Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Assad insists he is winning war as regime warplanes pound Raqqa

The battle of Raqqa could be a turning point because it would mark the first time an entire city fell into opposition hands.

BEIRUT // Syrian warplanes pounded Raqqa yesterday, a day after rebels seized security buildings in the city and captured the provincial governor, activists said.

Yet Bashar Al Assad, Syria's president, said yesterday that his regime was defeating the "conspiracy" against the country, while his forces hit back against rebels in Raqqa, raising questions about whether they would be able to maintain their hold on the city.

If the rebels succeed, it would mark the first time an entire city has fallen into opposition hands, dealing both a strategic and a symbolic blow to Mr Al Assad's regime.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said opposition fighters captured the governor of Raqqa province, Mr Jalali, after clashes overnight near the governor's office in the provincial capital with the same name. The Observatory said the head of Assad's ruling Baath party in the province, Salman Al Salman, also was in rebel custody.

An activist in the city who gave only his first name Amir said the two were detained by Al Nusra Front, a group with links to Al Qaeda, and other fighters who swept into the city on Monday.

"They are being treated well," he said.

Fighting continued near an intelligence building in the city as well as several other places, the Observatory director said yesterday, adding that "some of Raqqa is still under regime control".

The government also remained in control of military air bases outside the city and was using them to deploy warplanes to fight back against the rebel gains.

The Observatory said government warplanes carried out airstrikes on two targets in the city, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

Mr Al Assad, in comments published in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, said his opponents were "playing a game of survival" and that his forces had the upper hand on the battlefield. "Significant successes have been made, whose strategic importance is clear even to those in the region and the rest of the world who are making useless plans against Syria's security," he is quoted as saying. Jordan's King Abdullah II yesterday called on world nations to help Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon shoulder "the tremendous burden" of caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the violence in Syria. The United Nations says there are about 925,000 displaced Syrians around the region. Jordan is hosting more than 420,000 Syrian refugees.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National