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Wednesday, August 3, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Defecting troops form 'Free Syrian Army', target Assad security forces

NICOSIA — Syrian soldiers who defected from the regime of President Bashar Assad have formed a military force.


Officers and soldiers who fled the Assad regime have announced the formation of the "Free Syrian Army." The force's spokesman, Col. Riyad Assad, called on all Syrian military personnel to flee their units and join the rebel army.

"The Syrian Army now represents only the gangs that protect the regime," Assad said in a video statement.

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[On Aug. 2, the European Union expanded its sanctions on the Assad regime. In the latest move, the EU added Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib, Syrian military intelligence commander Mohammed Moufleh, internal security chief Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Yunis and two others to an EU asset freeze and visa ban.] The statement, posted on YouTube, showed Assad surrounded by seven people identified as officers. The colonel said the rebel military would target Assad's security forces, blamed for the killing of 1,800 civilians since March.

"From now on, the security forces that kill civilians and besiege cities will be treated as legitimate targets," Assad, named interim commander of the rebel force, said. "We will target them in all parts of the Syrian territories without exception."

The others in the video were identified as Col. Ahmed Hijazi, named deputy rebel commander. Lt. Col. Abdul Satar Yunsu was said to have been the commander of the Hamza Khatib Battalion; Capt. Ibrahim Majbur was named chief of the Hurriya Battalion; and Capt. Ala Al Din was commander of the Qashush Battalion.

"We announce the formation of the Free Syrian Army to work hand-in-hand with the people to achieve freedom and dignity to bring this regime down, protect the revolution and the country's resources, and stand in the face of the irresponsible military machine that protects the regime," Assad said.

Opposition sources said hundreds of army soldiers and officers fled their units over the last three months. They said some of them have joined the revolt against Assad while others fled to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

"We call on the numerous honorable officers in the Syrian Army to immediately defect from, stop pointing their rifles at the people's chests, join the Free Army, and form a national army that can protect the revolution and all sections of the Syrian people with all their sects," Assad said.

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