BEIRUT (Reuters) - Rebels in eastern Aleppo said they went on high alert on Friday after pro-government forces detained civilians leaving the area and deployed heavy weaponry on the road.
“Everyone is manning positions and the fronts. Readiness is at the highest level,” the head of the Fastaqim rebel group in Aleppo said in a voice message sent to Reuters.
“The cursed Iranians detained civilians who were in cars leaving Aleppo city, about 20-25 cars. They began to cause problems in the area and they brought heavy weapons out on the main road.”
A Turkmen rebel fighter from the Sultan Murad brigade in eastern Aleppo told Reuters Iranian militia had taken about 200 people hostage from a convoy at the second checkpoint they passed as they were leaving the city.
A Reuters witness said government forces had set up roadblocks on the highway being used to evacuate people.
The evacuation of people from the last opposition-held areas of the city was suspended on Friday after pro-government militias demanded that wounded people also be brought out of two Shi’ite villages being besieged by rebel fighters.
Reporting by Laila Bassam, Tom Perry and Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Humeyra Pamuk in Gaziantep; Editing by Andrew Roche