*Panoramic View Of Aleppo Central Prison, including editing and coloring.
Aleppo Central Prison is located 7 miles northeast of the Aleppo Citadel and is situated near the suburb of Jbeileh. Like the Al-Kindi Hospital, this facility straddles a major thoroughfare coming into the city. The Prison is located in a valley surrounded by gradual inclines and spotted suburbs/industrial facilities. The Prison was well constructed with reinforced concrete and contains a number of levels and building structures. Extensions on the prison were planned until the influx of violence. The perimeter of the prison contains high walls and concertina wire, with a total distance of 3 kilometers. Despite it’s forbidding presence and defensive capabilities, it still suffers from being surrounded by high-ground and a small urban environment near the main entrance. This allows for infiltration and VBIED’s. With the proper supply/weapons and man power, the Aleppo Central Prison can be defended for a long period of time. On the other hand, like Al-Kindi, if left to its own defenses the structure will succumb to its own weaknesses.
At the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Aleppo’s City managed to stay out of the fray and for the most part supported the government. Fighting wouldn’t hit the vicinity until July of 2012. Rebel victories in the North inevitably brought the city into the cross-hairs of the rebel/jihadists. The prison was staffed with guards and other technical workers, as well as the inmates that inhabited the grounds. Some had been there before the uprising along with those arrested since the start.
Contrary to popular media, who like to embellish, the idea that the prison would stay fully stocked until being surrounded is illogical on two fronts, one being that if they were to be freed they would join the fight against the SAA(Syrian Arab Army) . The second being the logistics, because at a time like this to get that much food for all those mouths to feed would not be smart. Its hard to say the exact numbers but maybe a thousand or less(I’ll look).
As battles broke out over the city, the conflict became characterized by an ebb and flow of local offensives and counter-attacks. By the beginning of 2013, in the North the SAA had been pushed into a small three mile corridor. The area stretched from the prison, south along the rail-line towards Al-Kindi Hospital and the Handarat district.*note - SAA that had been caught up in the most recent rebel offensive up north had hastily made it to friendly territory (pocket below) to try and regroup.
WIKIMAPIA LINK FOR ABOVE IMAGE(Investigate!!!!)
The rebel/jihadist forces were able to chip away at this pocket until they drove all defenders to either the AL-Kindi Hospital or Aleppo Prison. If you read my previous article on the hospital you know what happens. With the fall of Al-Kindi, the road was now clear(literally) to amass and concentrate on the last obstacle, Aleppo Prison.
It must be noted that after the fall of Al-Qusayr in the summer/fall of 2013, the SAA went on an offensive to the East, through Al-Safirah and Khanasir that reached the Aleppo airport and continues to push towards the prison. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen because it really is a matter of who can get their quicker…. The SAA to the defenders, or the rebel/jihadst into the prison.
The SAF has played a major role in the defense of Aleppo Prison, they have been on call to respond to any attack by deploying fighter jets as well as drop supplies to the besieged defenders.
The forces aligned against the SAA are a mixture of Jabat Al-Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham(Falcons), Al Islamiya. These groups are filled with foreign fighters from all over the middle-east and Caucus region. The FSA is present in spirit but this is a foreign run affair with command and control led by the two most senior groups.
The latest fighting occurred a few days ago and involved a common theme with the jihadist, the VBIED(not the first one used on the prison). Yes, another TNT strapped lorry, up-armored and hurled at the prison to try and breach the defenses. For as crude as it is , it is the best tactic if you have someone willing to do it.
The website SyrianPerspective.com has a good article on the attack. I follow the site, and ZIad, the creator, has some reliable sources on the ground. His article states that the attack was led by a Chechen group and their leader , Abu Sayf Al-Sheeshaani. He supposedly died in the attack, here is a before and after photo of him.
In researching the battle I unknowingly stumbled upon evidence of him at that location on the day of the attack.
The video below was shot by Ahrar Al-Sham and Contains HD footage of the prison and the VBIED attack. As well, I believe you will see Mr. Sheeshani standing below the man barking out orders or inspiration. This footage could be hours or minutes before he died. Oh and notice all the Chechen looking “rebels” in the background? The Map below will show the location of video taping and also why I believe the Prison is in danger of being overrun.
*Be sure to click HD setting on video
*Video Reference Map
(I have to say that this was the hardest video/geographical breakdown I’ve done in a while. The geometric shaping of the prison and its location in a valley made me look for hours until I figured out the overall layout, I still have questions?..?..?)
So after viewing the video you get a sense of the state of the prison and the position of the attackers. The attack supposedly failed and many rebel/jihadist forces were killed or wounded. Media reports indicate that a number of prisoners were freed, but then again they also claimed that the rebels/jihadists had taken the prison outright. Like all stories with two sides, its probably a little of both- Attack didn’t achieve takeover but did manage to liberate a few prisoners and SAA living to fight another day.
My thoughts are the state of the building, after months of attacks, and the fact that the attackers have surrounded the prison in such close proximity. Also, another concern is the pre-constructed sandbag barriers for firing positions, meaning they have been there awhile and/or they feel they are safe enough to engage from those positions. One thing is for sure, the VBIED is here to stay and look for it in the very near future.
Understood by both sides, the battle of Aleppo Prison is one of time . On one side you have the SAA, pushing from the South to try and reach their besieged comrades, and on the other you have the rebel/jihadist forces trying to end all resistance A.S.A.P.
This scenario mirrors Al-Kindi in many ways and the SAA are determined not to have the same outcome. From my research, it’s my opinion if they aren’t relieved soon they will fall. They cannot hold out on their own for more than a month, (even with artillery and air support). There will come a time (Like Menagh and Al-Kindi) when the attackers will have suppressed the defenders enough to get a VBIED into a breach and the rest is history. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for updates, as they come in.
(HD VIDEO OF VBIED FROM LAST YEAR. VIDEO REFERENCE MAP TO UNDERSTAND TERRAIN AND DATE/POSITION ORIENTATION)*PUT ON HD AT BOTTOM RIGHT MENU