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Wednesday, May 11, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syrian militia, led by Assad's first cousins, firing heavy weapons against protesters

WASHINGTON — A militia established by President Bashar Assad has been using heavy weapons to destroy the opposition movement in Syria, a report said.


The Council on Foreign Relations said the Shabiha militia has played a major role in the bloody regime crackdown on the opposition. The council said Shabiha, led by Assad's cousins and said to contain thousands of young Alawites, were given a range of weapons to fire toward civilian protesters.

"In the coastal cities, a militia called Shabiha, headed by Assad's first cousins, Fawaz Assad and Munzer Assad, are armed with heavy weapons and partaking in the violence," the report, titled "The Structure of Syria's Repression: Will the Army Break With the Regime?" said.

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Shabiha was said to have joined Army units to kill demonstrators in Banias, Dera, Homs and other Syrian cities. The report, authored by Syrian dissident Ahed Al Hendi, said Shabiha was financed by gun-running and other criminal activity, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Known for weapons and drugs smuggling, robbery, and prostitution, Shabiha joined the Fourth Division and attacked civilians in the cities of Banias, Jableh, and Latakia," the report said.

The report said Assad's Military Security Directorate has played the bloodiest role in the crackdown. The directorate was said to have killed more civilians than any other regime agency.

Al Hendi did not rule out the prospect that most of Syria's Army could defect to the opposition. He said Shabiha and such Army units as the Fourth Division would be unable to protect the regime. On May 11, the division launched heavy shelling of the northern city of Homs.

"Yet should the greater part of the army defect, the Fourth Division and the Republican Guard will be unable to defend the regime alone," the report said. "The Assad family may then surrender, giving way to the wishes of the Syrian people."

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