RPS, regarded as authoritative, said Najib was commanding Assad's
security forces in Dera. The Washington-based group said Najib was directing
sniper squads to kill unarmed protesters, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The head of the military operations in Dera for the Assad regime is
Gen. Atef Najib," RPS said on April 8. "We urge the international community
to highlight his hand in massacring the innocent people of Dera using
snipers against peaceful marchers and tear gas that Syrian human rights
organizations have asked the world community to investigate."
So far, the bloodiest clashes between protesters and security forces
have taken place in Dera. On April 8, at least 40 people were killed in the
southern city, where the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party was torched.
The Assad regime was said to have been bolstered by Iranian security
forces, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Opposition
sources said IRGC has deployed 10,000 troops in Syria.
The opposition has urged Western countries to help stop the Assad
crackdown. U.S. President Barack Obama was called upon to warn Najib that he
could be charged with crimes against humanity.
At least one regime official has expressed opposition to the Assad
crackdown. Samira Al Mussalameh, a senior Baath official in Dera, was forced
to resign after she blamed security forces for the killing of civilians.
Over the weekend, the opposition organized protests in Aleppo, the
second largest city in Syria, as well as the port of Tartous. Clashes were
also reported in the northern city of Homs.
The Interior Ministry said 19 police and security officers were killed
in clashes in Dera on April 8. The ministry said another 75 officers were
injured by gunfire by so-called armed groups after mosque prayers.
"They began to open fire randomly in order to cause a schism between
citizens and security personnel," the ministry said. "They burned official
and services establishments, prompted some to assault military and security
personnel who are still committed to not opening fire, which led to the
martyring and injuring of high numbers of these personnel."