Tunnel explosion lightly damages Syria's citadel in Aleppo

AP News
Posted: Jul 12, 2015 10:50 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — A tunnel explosion in the northern city of Aleppo lightly damaged the wall of its famous citadel Sunday, the latest archaeological site to be ravaged in Syria's civil war, activists and state media said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the tunnel was dug by rebels before it was discovered by troops who detonated it. The Observatory said part of the sprawling citadel's wall collapsed.

Aleppo-based activist Nazeer al-Khatib said about 2 meters (yards) of the wall collapsed. He said government forces control the citadel and that he had no information who caused Sunday's blast.

Syria's state-run news agency SANA said "terrorists" blew up a tunnel, causing a wall of the citadel to collapse.

Aleppo's medieval citadel is an imposing city landmark that once swarmed with tourists. The rebels have detonated several tunnels since last year, including one that destroyed the Carlton Hotel, known for its elegant architecture and its proximity to the 13th century citadel.

Archaeological sites in Aleppo have been damaged in the past in Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year. The war has killed more than 220,000 people. Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has been contested since July 2012.

In May, the Islamic State group captured the historic central town of Palmyra, raising concerns that extremists might destroy its nearby UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its 2,000-year-old Roman colonnades and priceless artifacts. Islamic State fighters have destroyed other pre-Islamic ancient monuments elsewhere in Syria and Iraq.