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U.N. Says Hundreds Of Men Missing After Trying To Escape Aleppo

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Syria, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are pushing into the part of Aleppo that has been controlled by rebel forces for years. Tens of thousands of people already fled the fighting. The U.N. says others who tried to escape more recently have been caught by one side or the other. NPR's Alice Fordham reports.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: The United Nations Human Rights Office said today that as people run away from their homes and from fighting in the opposition-dominated part of Aleppo, some are being detained by the government. Here's Ravina Shamdasani from that office.

RAVINA SHAMDASANI: We received quite credible reports that hundreds of men had gone missing after they crossed into a government-controlled areas.

FORDHAM: Shamdasani said that given the terrible record the Syrian government has of long arbitrary detention of political opponents, as well as on the use of torture in prisons, concerns for these men is very real. People reached by NPR in Aleppo also say they have seen numerous men detained there. And Shamdasani said there are also disturbing reports of violations by the rebel groups controlling their shrinking opposition enclave in Aleppo.

SHAMDASANI: We also had reports that the armed opposition groups, some of the armed opposition groups, have been trying to stop people who are fleeing.

FORDHAM: Yesterday, speaking at a press conference, the humanitarian chief Jan Egeland, who advises the U.N. on Syria, acknowledged that armed rebel groups had put conditions on evacuations in the past but said now it seems to be everyone's priority to evacuate civilians.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

JAN EGELAND: Absolutely desperate appeals from inside Aleppo coming to us - comes to us as individuals now, as U.N. officials, as humanitarians.

FORDHAM: Assad's Russian allies, as well as the U.S. and Syrian officials and rebel representatives, are still talking about a truce. But for now the fighting continues. Assad has said there will be no truce without a rebel withdrawal. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.