Syrian forces kill 30 deserters in ambush - opposition

AMMAN Tue Mar 12, 2013 10:05pm IST

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian government forces killed at least 30 army deserters in an ambush on the Damascus Airport road on Tuesday as opposition fighters were guiding them on foot to a rebel-held district, opposition sources said.

Many thousands of the mostly Sunni Muslim army rank and file have deserted since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted two years ago. Assad and most of the army's senior ranks and elite forces belong to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

"They were crossing the highway to Eastern Ghouta when they were ambushed," a rebel commander in the region said on condition of anonymity. He was referring to a part of the eastern outskirts of Damascus that is held by the opposition.

"They ambushed them at 2 a.m. The regime had intelligence that they were coming," another opposition source said, adding that another seven of the group of 40 had been wounded.

An opposition military source said rebels had overrun a missile squadron at the weekend manned mostly by Alawites in the town of Khan al-Sheih near Damascus, and killed at least 30 of its troops who had escaped to a nearby farm.

"The rebels captured air-to-surface missiles, which they cannot operate, and 11 anti-aircraft guns, which they can," the source said.

A video released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organisation based in Britain, showed a long row of bodies in a green field.

"Several brigades including the Sunni Knights stormed with the blessing of God the 137th Air Defence Brigade and killed and captured many of its members," a rebel narrator says in the video.

"These are their pigs ... the dogs of Assad," he says as he walks past the bodies.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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