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Tuesday, September 13, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Syrian opposition forms military battalions 'without partisan interest'

ANKARA — Syria's opposition has reported the formation of a military to fight President Bashar Assad.


The opposition said the so-called Free Syrian Army has formed several battalions assigned to fight Assad forces in central and northern Syria. The units were identified as the Muawiya Ibn Abu Sufyan and the Abu Ubeida Bin Jarrah, meant for deployment in the Damascus. In August, the Free Army said it established its first battalion in the northeastern city of Homs, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.

"This is a national army without partisan interests," Free Army commander Col. Riyad Assad said.

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In a video statement, Assad, not believed to be related to the embattled president, urged Syrians to continue peaceful demonstrations against the regime. He pledged that the Free Army would protect civilians from regime forces, said to have killed more than 2,300 people since March.

"We will see the fall of the regime sooner than you expected," the opposition colonel said.

Opposition sources said hundreds of officers and soldiers defected from the Assad regime over the last three months. They reported the latest high-ranking defected as Col. Riyad Mussa Al Assad, an air force commander. Al Assad said he fled his 22nd Brigade becausse of what he termed "the repressive measures of the army against civilians."

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