Syria security forces on high alert; Southern tribes could spark mutiny in military

Friday, March 25, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

NICOSIA The regime of President Bashar Assad has placed Syrian security forces on high alert.

Opposition sources said the Assad regime has canceled all leaves from the military and security forces amid unprecedented unrest throughout Syria. They said the regime has pressed into service reservists as well as those assigned to desk jobs to help quell the protests.

"We are told of [security] men sleeping in detention centers, fatigued, and operating under high pressure," the Reform Party of Syria (RPS) said.

Opposition sources said the Assad regime was concerned over a mutiny, particularly in the military. They said the military has long recruited from tribes in southern and other parts of Syria.

"It won't be long now that the Syrian tribes have taken a clear position against the regime," RPS said. "Many of their children are army recruits."

Assad relieved his cousin of a major post. RPS said Zuelhelma Shalish, a senior commander in Military Intelligence, was transferred from Dera in wake of the killing and detention of civilians, including children. On March 23, security forces led by the army, employing live fire, raided a mosque in Dera in which at least 15 people were killed.

"The Military Intelligence officer responsible for the Dera region is none other than Zuelhelma Shalish," RPS said. "After the Dera fiasco detaining children, our sources told us that he has been relieved of his duties. Considering he is Assad's cousin, his face and incompetence will reappear soon." RPS said the clashes between security forces and thousands of protesters have alarmed the regime. The Washington-based opposition group, said to be authoritative, asserted that Assad was reshuffling his security commanders as the unrest grows.

Hours after the assault on the Dera mosque, Assad dismissed the governor of Dera, Faisal Kolthoum. The regime asserted that Dera had been infiltrated by armed gangs responsible for most of the clashes with security forces.

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