Islamic State group jihadists demolish notorious government prison in historic Syrian city of Palmyra

Smoke rises at Tadmur prison after it was blown up
Smoke rises at Tadmur prison after it was blown up

Islamic State group jihadists demolished a notorious government prison in the historic Syrian city of Palmyra on Saturday, as barrel bombs dropped by regime helicopters killed more than 70 civilians in Aleppo

The prison was empty of people at the time of the detonation, said Rami Abdulrahmanfrom the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Islamic State announced the explosion in a statement on social media and supporters posted pictures of huge clouds of grey smoke above the sprawling complex in the city, also known as Tadmur.

In neighbouring Iraq, government forces retook an area west of the city of Ramadi, which IS overran earlier in May.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS planted explosives that “largely destroyed” the Palmyra jail, which was for decades a symbol of abuses meted out on regime opponents.

Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad welcomed on social media the destruction of the long-feared prison at Palmyra, which IS seized 10 days ago after government forces pulled out.

In rebel-held areas of Aleppo province including the city itself, “at least 71 civilians were killed, and dozens wounded when regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs,” the Observatory said.

In the worst carnage, 59 civilians, all male, were killed at a market in the jihadist-controlled town of Al-Bab, the Britain-based monitoring group’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

“People often gather on Saturday mornings at the Al-Hail market in Al-Bab, which is why the number of dead was so high,” explained Abdel Rahman.

He said 12 people were also killed in barrel bomb attacks on Aleppo’s rebel-held Al-Shaar neighbourhood, including eight members of a single family.

Victims’ bodies were laid out on the streets of the neighbourhood, the limp blood-covered hand of one of them protruding from under a blanket, said an AFP correspondent at the scene.