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Syrian army barrel bombs kill dozens in Aleppo

Syrian army airstrikes have killed at least 71 civilians and wounded dozens in the northern province of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory has called it a "massacre" happening at the market of the city of al-Bab.

Barrel bombs dropped from Syrian regime helicopters killed scores civilians in Syria's Aleppoprovince on Saturday, news agencies report.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the city of al-Bab and in Shaar in east of Aleppo city," the news agency AFP reported.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the monitoring group, said 12 people were killed in rebel-held Shaar and 59 in the city of al-Bab.

This came after forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad retreated from the neighboring northwestern region of Idliband after al Nusra Front- affiliated with al Qaeda - and its allies overran the last remaining regime-held city of Ariha and surrounding villages.

Mainly male civilians

The civilians killed at a market in al-Bab were all men, Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that women have much less freedom of movement in IS-controlled areas.

Al-Bab lies about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of the city of Aleppo and is controlled by the extremist Islamic State group. IS also confirmed the attack in a statement posted on Twitter.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said the bodies of victims were laid out on the streets of the neighborhood.

Damascus, Homs and Hama: vital territories for Assad

Aleppo, once Syria's commercial hub, has been divided among government and opposition forces since 2012.

"For the regime, the vital territory to be protected is Damascus, Homs, Hama and the coast. Idlib is no longer (vital), which explains the rapid retreat from Ariha," a security source told AFP.

Government forces also lost the ancient city of Palmyra to IS jihadists on May 21.

ra/sms (AP, AFP)

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