Activists: Syrian rebels shoot down helicopter gunship over Aleppo slum


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BEIRUT — Syrian rebels have shot down a helicopter gunship over a slum in the northern city of Aleppo, killing at least four people, activists said Saturday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the helicopter was shot down with a missile Friday night over a poor area of town known as Camp Nairab. Camp Nairab is adjacent to the Nairba military airport southeast of the city, where aircraft take off to carry out attacks in northern Syria.

Helicopters are used by President Bashar Assad's forces to drop barrel bombs — crude explosives that have killed thousands of people and caused widespread destruction, especially in Aleppo. Rebels have rarely succeeded in downing helicopters.

The Observatory and an Aleppo-based activist who goes by the name Abu Saeed Izzedine said the crash killed four people, including a child. The Observatory said three of the dead were the helicopter's crew members.

Aleppo, once Syria's commercial capital, has seen heavy fighting since rebels seized part of the city in 2012.

The Observatory also reported Saturday that the number of soldiers killed over the past few days in a northern military base that was overrun by members of the extremist Islamic State group has risen to 85. It said the fate of 200 other soldiers is still unknown.

The monitoring group, which relies on a network of activists inside the country, said Islamic State fighters have executed and paraded the bodies of "tens" of soldiers in the northern city of Raqqa, the only provincial capital out of government control.

Amateur videos posted online by activists showed more than a dozen beheaded bodies in a busy square said to be in Raqqa. Some of the heads were placed on a nearby fence while at least two beheaded bodies were crucified on the fence.

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the events.

On social media sites that support the Islamic State group, activists posted photographs from inside the military base known as Division 17 showing fighters in control of several tanks, trucks and ammunition boxes.

Syria's civil war has killed at least 170,000 people, nearly a third of them civilians, according to activists. Nearly three million Syrians have fled the country.

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