BEIRUT: Syrian rebels blew up a luxury hotel turned into an army base in the historic heart of Aleppo yesterday after tunnelling under the front line that divides the main northern city.
State television gave no word on any casualties from the attack that levelled the famed Carlton Citadel Hotel just across the road from the city’s Unesco-listed Citadel.
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 troops and pro-regime militia were killed in the blast and its immediate aftermath.
“The explosion that was heard in Aleppo’s Old City was caused by explosives planted by Islamist battalions in a tunnel beneath the Carlton hotel, which was occupied by regime troops,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.
“Fourteen troops and pro-regime militiamen were killed in the explosion, and in fighting that broke out nearby immediately afterwards,” its director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
A spokesman for Syria’s biggest rebel alliance, the Islamic Front, said via the Internet from Aleppo that its fighters carried out the attack. Video posted on the group’s Twitter account showed a huge cloud of smoke and dust billowing into the sky after a massive explosion.
State television said the hotel was completely flattened by the blast.
“Terrorists targeted the historic Carlton hotel in the Old City with a big explosion, destroying it completely and destroying several historic buildings nearby,” the broadcaster said.