Syrian warplanes target fallen city of Raqqa: opposition

AMMAN Tue Mar 5, 2013 11:29am EST

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian warplanes bombarded the city of Raqqa on Tuesday, a day after it was captured by rebel fighters, opposition campaigners and a resident said.

"The center of the city is being bombarded by warplanes. I counted 60 rockets," the resident said, adding hospitals had issued calls to donate blood as casualties mounted.

Sharif Shihada, a member of the government-controlled parliament told al-Jazeera television ground forces had been sent to retake Raqqa and said: "The situation will suddenly change for these terrorists," referring to opposition brigades.

Opposition sources and residents said rebel fighters captured the northeastern city on Monday and toppled a statue of President Bashar al-Assad's father, in what would be the first major city to be captured since the revolt erupted against four decades of Assad family rule in March 2011.

All of Raqqa except a military intelligence compound fell and hundreds of Assad's forces fled east in the direction of Iraq and west to Aleppo, according to local sources.

The rebels arrested the governor and Baath Party head, at least one intelligence chief and the provincial police commander, a major blow to loyalist cadres entrusted with pacifying the east, the sources said.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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