Islamic State has blown up a Syrian prison in Palmyra, demolishing one of the country’s most renowned and feared detention centres, a monitor says.
The prison complex, known as Tadmur, was “largely destroyed after IS planted explosives inside and around it”, 10 days after the jihadists seized Palmyra from regime forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
IS announced the destruction of the prison in a statement on social media and supporters posted pictures on Twitter showing the infamous prison being blown up, destroying an important symbol of government control in the jihadist-held city.
The prison was the site of a 1980 massacre in which hundreds of inmates were killed. It became notorious throughout Syria as a symbol of the brutality of the regime of former president Hafez al-Assad and his son and successor, Bashar.
Housing political prisoners until the 2011 uprising, the jail later became overcrowded with regime deserters and draft evaders as peaceful anti-government protests morphed into a brutal civil war.
Regime opponents praised the jail’s destruction on social media.
“IS has wiped out evidence of the crimes of the Assad clan by blowing up the infamous Palmyra prison,” Syrian opposition member Mohammad Sarmini said on Twitter.
“Palmyra prison bears witness to the crimes of the century,” an anti-Assad activist tweeted.
Detailed information about inmates and conditions inside the high security prison is rare.
A 2001 Amnesty International report, based on the accounts of former inmates, described the prison as “designed to inflict the maximum suffering, humiliation and fear on prisoners”.
Former war crimes prosecutors said in January 2014 that a Syrian military police photographer had supplied evidence showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in Syrian jails.
The Syrian government said the report was politicised and the images were fake.
Civilian death toll ‘among highest’ after barrel bombs dropped
Meanwhile, barrel bombs dropped from regime helicopters killed more than 70 civilians in Syria’s Aleppo, while government forces in neighbouring Iraq retook an area west of the jihadist-controlled city of Ramadi.
While barrel bombs — crude weapons made of containers packed with explosives — had often struck schools, hospitals, and markets in Syria, Saturday’s death toll was among the highest.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “at least 71 civilians were killed, and dozens wounded when regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs” on the provincial town of Al-Bab and the Al-Shaar district of the city of Aleppo.
n the worst carnage, 59 civilian men were killed at a market in jihadist-controlled Al-Bab, a popular spot for people to gather on Saturday mornings, observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Twelve people were also killed in rebel-held Al-Shaar, including eight members of a single family, the observatory said. Victims’ bodies were laid out on the streets of the neighbourhood.
The observatory said air attacks on built-up areas after battleground losses had become common practice for Syria’s regime.
Regime forces dropped barrel bombs on Friday in Idlib provice, now under the control of rebels after regime forces withdrew, leaving Al-Quaeda and its allies to capture the city of Ariha and surrounding villages.
The Syrian regime has ceded swathes of territory this month. Following defeats in Idlib’s provincial capital and at a massive military base nearby, government forces also lost the ancient city of Palmyra to IS jihadists on May 21.