Syrian Rebels Capture Raqqa Governor, Reports Say

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Raqqa
A statue of President Bashar Al-Assad's father, Hafez Al-Assad, is pulled down as people celebrate in Raqqa on Mar. 4, 2013

Syrian rebels reportedly captured the governor of the northern provincial capital of Raqqa Tuesday a day after the region came under insurgents control in a takeover touted as a major victory for the rebels in two years of fighting against the government.

An amateur video filmed by the rebels and distributed by the U.K.-based watchdog, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights appeared to show Governor Hassan Jalili and Suleiman Suleiman, the ruling Baath party's secretary general for the province, seated among jubilant armed fighters.

"This is the highest profile capture by rebels of a regime official. Raqqa has suffered a lot because of the governor's corruption," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

According to the Observatory, a high-ranking state security officer was also taken captive by rebels, and a senior police official was killed.

Announcing governor’s capture, rebel group Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesperson Louay Almokdad said that the city official was abandoned by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to “to face his fate,” Al Arabiya News reported.

Though insurgents took most of Raqqa Monday, troops and pro-regime militia fought on during the night near the military intelligence headquarters in the city, said the Observatory.

"New army reinforcements are on their way to Raqqa. We have yet to see whether they will make it into the city or not," Abdel Rahman said.

The Observatory said the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, blacklisted by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, was among the rebel groups, which engaged in a fierce battle against regime forces in the city, the BBC reported.

At the city’s central square, residents pulled down a statue of former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad with a rope tied around its neck. People then jumped on the fallen statue and hit it with their shoes, the BBC report added.

Raqqa, situated on the Euphrates River near the Turkish border, has provided refuge for hundreds of thousands of Syrians, who fled the violence in other parts of the country. The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals.

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