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Violence rages near historic Syria mosque

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published February 26, 2013 at 8:37 a.m. Updated February 26, 2013 at 8:54 a.m.

— Combat raged near a historic mosque in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday while anti-government activists reported fresh clashes near a police academy west of the city.

The fighting near the Umayyad Mosque in the walled Old City of Aleppo threated to further damage the 12th century structure, part of which was burned during clashes last year.

Since July 2011, government forces and rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad have been fighting over Aleppo, the country’s largest city and a major prize in the civil war. While rebels have gradually expanded their control, fighting has left much of the city, considered one of Syria’s most beautiful, in ruins.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that rebels clashed with government forces near the Umayyad Mosque amid intense gunfire and explosions.

Syria’s state news agency said “terrorists” had detonated explosives near the mosque’s wall, causing “material damages.” Assad’s regime refers to the opposition as “terrorists.”

The mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Aleppo, dates the 12th century and sits near a medieval covered market in Aleppo’s walled city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mosque was heavily damaged in October, and a fire torched the market the month before.

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