On May 3, the Syrian opposition reported the defection of two Syrian
main battle tanks in Rustun. The opposition Reform Party of Syria said the
army threatened to open fire on the town unless the MBTs were returned by
The sources said Assad has used the 4th armored division extensively in
battling both civilian demonstrators and suspected insurgents. The division
has been led by Assad's younger brother, Maher, also regarded as deputy
"The division moves from city to city and fires indiscriminately," the
diplomat said. "I don't think Assad could expect any other commander to
order such attacks."
The president has also deployed the 5th Division, commanded by Mohammed
Saleh Rifai, to quell protests in the southern city of Dera. Opposition
sources said soldiers in the 5th Division, many of them residents in the
area, have been refusing to fire and in some cases were shooting at the 4th
As a result, the sources said, Assad has used the 5th Division for
perimeter security while a range of plainclothes and other forces shoot
demonstrators. The division has also been reinforced by the 132nd Battalion,
deemed as loyal.
There have also been reports of the army's 11th Division being deployed
on the perimeter of Telkelakh near Homs. The division was said to have
provided cover for security forces that battled protesters in the northern
One of the most active security units has been the so-called Shabiha
militia, comprised of young Assad loyalists from the minority Alawite sect.
In Duma, near Damascus, Shabiha fighters, carrying assault rifles, were
patrolling the streets, the sources said. They said Shabiha, which has
ordered Alawis to stay home amid the search for Sunnis, has arrested more
than 1,000 people in Duma, most of them young men, over the last three days.
In the northern town of Dir Al Zour, security officers were said to have
killed at least four Kurdish soldiers who refused orders to fire on
sources said members of the General Intelligence Directorate, commanded by
Assad's cousin, Atif Najib, were monitoring Kurdish and other soldiers.
"Questions are being raised both about the authorities' ability to
control and discipline the security apparatus and about the security forces'
willingness to convey to their political leadership a truthful picture of
what is happening on the ground," the International Crisis Group said on May
3. "Even at the best of times, large segments of the security services have
been plagued by sectarianism, corruption, incompetence and a sense of
wholesale impunity. These features are all the more likely to surface amid a