Syrian troops take over northwestern town

By BASSEM MROUE | June 17, 2011 | 3:29 AM EDT

A Syrian refugee girl peers from behind plastic sheets used by Turkish authorities to obscure view in a camp in Yayladagi ,Turkey, near the Syrian border, Thursday, June 16, 2011. The tension in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, near the border with Turkey, has forced some 500 Syrians to flee the country since Wednesday, raising the number of people who sought refuge in Turkey to 8,900, according to Turkish authorities. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BEIRUT (AP) — Two activists say Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships have taken over a northwestern town days after laying siege to it.

Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso says large numbers of soldiers entered Maaret al-Numan early Friday. It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties in the operation.

Many of the residents of Maaret al-Numan, a town of 100,000 on the highway linking Damascus with Syria's largest city, Aleppo, have fled following last week's operations in the northwestern province of Idlib near the Turkish border.

Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents anti-government protests, said troops are in full control of the town.

Human rights activists say more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 have been detained in the government crackdown.