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Syria activists: Al-Qaeda-linked rebels now control Christian village where residents speak the ancient ‘language of Christ’

National Post | News

AMMAN, Jordan — Rebels including al-Qaeda-linked fighters gained control of a Christian village northeast of the capital Damascus, Syrian activists said Sunday. Government media provided a dramatically different account of the battle suggesting regime forces were winning.

It was impossible to independently verify the reports from Maaloula, a scenic mountain community known for being one of the few places in the world where residents still speak the ancient Middle Eastern language of Aramaic.

The rebel advance into the area this week was spearheaded by the Jabhat al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, exacerbating fears among Syrians and religious minorities about the role played by Islamic extremists within the rebel ranks.

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It was not immediately clear why the army couldn’t sufficiently reinforce its troops to prevent the rebel advance in the area only 43 kilometres from Damascus. Some activists say that Assad’s forces are stretched thin, fighting in other areas in…

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