Historic mosque in Aleppo badly damaged in fight


A Syrian man walks near the Umayyad Mosque in the old city of Aleppo in northern Syria on October 15, 2012. Fighting between regime forces and rebels has raged in Syria's commercial capital since mid-July, including in its UNESCO-listed old city which embraces the ancient citadel and historic covered market, or souk, as well as the landmark Umayyad Mosque.



An ancient mosque in Aleppo's old city was badly damaged on Monday when fighting between rebels and government forces set fire to the building, reports AP.

Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered immediate repairs to the ancient Great Mosque, which was built in the early 8th century, though it was destroyed by the Mongols and rebuilt. 

According to Reuters, "The mosque's medieval arches were charred, its elaborate wooden panels smashed and metal filigree lanterns lay broken in the courtyard. The sound of nearby gunfire could be heard."

Government troops have been using the UNESCO World Heritage site for several months before rebel forces attempted to liberate it this week, reports AP.

Rebels reportedly controlled one entrance to the mosque compound while the army controlled the other.

Activist Mohammad al-Hassan told AP that the army had been using the mosque as a base because of its strategic location in the center of the old city of Aleppo.

"It's all blackened now," he said.

Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reports that the Syrian army has regained control of the mosque but there are conflicting reports about who currently controls the mosque. 

“The army has expelled the armed groups from the Umayyad mosque,” a rebel military official told an AFP journalist at the scene in Aleppo. 

The fighting in Syria has showed no signs of slowing and UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called Monday for a ceasefire in Syria in honor of the upcoming Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice.