Mutinous Syrian soldiers behind deaths in north

AP , Tuesday 7 Jun 2011

Residents in northern Syrian town say defecting soldiers were behind the killing of officers

Residents of a tense town in northern Syria say mutinous soldiers joined forces with protesters after days of crackdowns, apparently killing dozens of officers and security guards.

The government said 120 security forces died after "armed groups" attacked in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, but has not explained how the heavily armed military could suffer such an enormous loss of life.

One resident says a number of soldiers defected after days of crackdown, angered by the thuggish behavior of pro-government gunmen known as "shabiha," a fearsome name that some believe has its roots in the Arabic word for "ghost." The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals, said the gunmen were terrorizing residents and trying to stir up sectarian tensions.

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