Damascus: Syrian rebels captured the governor of the northern province of Raqa after overrunning the provincial capital, a monitoring group said on Tuesday. A short amateur video filmed by rebels and distributed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed the governor, Hassan Jalili, and Suleiman Suleiman, the ruling Baath party's head for Raqa province, seated among rebels.
"All we want is to get rid of the regime," an unidentified rebel tells the captives, who can be seen sitting in silence, wearing dark suits and pale blue shirts. Jalili's capture came a day after rebels overran the provincial capital Raqa, in their biggest victory since the outbreak of the anti-regime insurgency almost two years ago.
On Tuesday, after rebels seized control of the political and state security buildings in the city, warplanes bombarded the surrounding area, said the Observatory. Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan described the takeover as "terrorism spreading in Raqa".
"The army and security services are fighting fierce battles in the city of Raqa where thousands of armed men have arrived" from the countryside, said Al-Watan. "This city was one of the calmest (in Syria) and was considered a refuge for many Syrians who had fled their cities," the daily added.
Raqa was once home to 240,000 residents, but some 800,000 people forced to flee violence in other parts of Syria have sought shelter there since the start of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
"Armed men are looting homes as well as public and private institutions amidst the city's chaos," said Al-Watan.
Elsewhere, fresh clashes broke out pitting rebels against troops in insurgent enclaves of the city of Homs, in central Syria, said the Observatory. The battles come three days into a fierce army and pro-regime militia campaign to reclaim rebel belts in the heart of Homs, dubbed by anti-Assad activists as "the capital of the revolution".
An activist in the rebel-held Old City district of Homs, under army siege for eight months, likened Tuesday's violence to "a war of attrition", as rebels fought off the onslaught and both sides sustained heavy casualties. "Everywhere you look, it's raining bullets," said Abu Bilal. "Everything in the Old City is burning. This is the army's fiercest onslaught on Homs since the outbreak of the revolt" in March 2011.
Also on Tuesday, fighter jets were deployed to bombard rebel enclaves in the city, after the army used tank and rocket fire to try to crush insurgents, according to the Observatory and activists. Some 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict , the UN says.
Tuesday's violence came a day after at least 194 people were killed in violence across Syria, the Observatory said. Among them were 81 rebels and 69 regime troops.