Syria’s government said as many as 120 security personnel were killed in an ambush by “terror groups” in the country’s north. Opposition supporters said the people who died were defectors who were shot by loyalists.
The attackers carried out a “massacre” in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, and stole 5 tons of dynamite, Syrian state television said. The government will act with resolve against those responsible, it said.
Opposition activists said there was a mutiny among security services in the town, and that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad executed police officers who had refused to open fire on protesters, according to Agence France-Presse, which didn’t identify the people who provided the information.
Assad’s security forces have killed more than 1,100 people and detained more than 10,000 since protests began in mid-March, according to human-rights groups. Jisr al-Shughour has been among the main flashpoints for demonstrations in recent days. The town is now under siege and as many as 50 protesters have been killed there in the past four days and 100 injured, according to Mahmoud Merhi, the head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights.
Merhi said by phone from Damascus today that he didn’t have direct information about the killing of security forces, adding that there may have been attacks by relatives of demonstrators killed at the start of the crackdown in Jisr al-Shughour, because “violence breeds violence.” There were protests across the country last night, he said.
‘Burned and Destroyed’
Interior Minister Mohamad Ibrahim al-Shaar said the gangs in Jisr al-Shughour had targeted state security buildings. They “burned and destroyed these centers using bullets and hand grenades,” he said. Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said the army would restore security in the region, and state television said reinforcements have been sent there.
Syria’s government says Islamists and foreign provocateurs are behind the uprising. State television has shown footage of what it says are arms and ammunition seized from opposition groups. Assad initially offered reforms in response to the protests, a pledge he hasn’t repeated in recent weeks.
Abdel Razaq Tlass, a Syrian army lieutenant who defected, told Al Jazeera television that he witnessed how the army killed protesters in Daraa and in Sanamin, and how officers put weapons and ammunition near their bodies to suggest they were gunmen. He called on other army officers to defect and protect civilians instead of Assad’s family.
The government yesterday warned owners of satellite telephones of unspecified penalties if their devices aren’t registered locally, state television said.
Several activists have said in interviews with Arabic-language television networks that they were using satellite telephones to call media outlets. Local reporters operate under restriction and members of the foreign media attempting to report from Syria have been jailed or deported.