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Syrian Army Defectors Kill Loyalist Troops

Clashes at dawn between Syrian Army defectors and government loyalist troops left 27 soldiers and security personnel dead on Thursday.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 12/15/2011, 10:25 AM

Syrian soldiers mutiny and welcome protesters
Syrian soldiers mutiny and welcome protesters
ShamsSNN screenshot

Syrian army defectors killed at least 27 soldiers and government personnel early Thursday.

The deaths came in three separate clashes at dawn in the southern province of Dara'a, where the uprising began against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

According to a report released Thursday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, Syrian military commanders have ordered their troops to indiscriminately shoot unarmed protesters.

The report, "By All Means Necessary," contained information gleaned from interviews with more than 60 former Syrian Army soldiers who defected to the opposition.

The sources named 74 military and intelligence officers "who allegedly ordered, authorized or condoned widespread killings, torture and unlawful arrests," HRW said in a statement. "Defectors gave us names, ranks, and positions of those who gave the orders to shoot and kill," said Anna Neistat, HRW Associate Director for emergencies.

Loyalist forces are being ordered to suppress anti-government protests "by all means necessary," the group reported, including with the use of lethal force. About half of those interviewed for the report had received direct orders to fire on protesters and bystanders, HRW said.