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May 22, 6:12 AM EDT

Syrian troops evacuate besieged compound in northwest


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BEIRUT (AP) -- Activists and state media say Syrian troops who had been besieged for nearly a month in a hospital compound in the country's northwest managed to withdraw.

State TV says the troops pulled out of the compound in the town of Jisr al-Shughour and reached government-held areas as other forces covered their withdrawal with intense shelling and airstrikes.

An unnamed military official is quoted by state TV as saying the troops left the compound carrying the bodies of their dead and wounded comrades.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says dozens of troops fled the compound, which was captured Friday by Islamic militants led by Syria's al-Qaida affiliate.

President Bashar Assad vowed earlier this month that "God willing, the army will soon reach those heroes besieged in Jisr al-Shughour hospital."

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