Syrian crackdown intensifies

Syrian army units clashed with each other over following President Bashar Assad's orders to crack down on protesters in Daraa, a besieged city at the heart of the uprising, witnesses and human rights groups said Thursday.

More than 450 people have been killed across Syria, about 100 in Daraa alone, and hundreds detained since the popular revolt against Assad began in mid March, according to human rights groups.

It is the latest sign that cracks — however small — are developing in Assad's base of support. About 200 mostly low-level members of Syria's ruling Baath Party have resigned over Assad's brutal crackdown.

Ausama Monajed, a spokesman for a group of opposition figures in Syria and abroad, said the clashes among the soldiers have been happening since Monday.

"There are some battalions that refused to open fire on the people," Monajed told the Associated Press, citing witnesses on the ground in Daraa, a city of 75,000 near the Jordanian border. "Battalions of the 5th Division were protecting people, and returned fire when they were subjected to attacks by the 4th Division."

The 4th Division is run by the president's brother, Maher.

AP said the reports were corroborated by three witnesses in Daraa and an activist. All four asked that their names not be used for fear of reprisals, AP said.

Syria tried to build reactor: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano on Thursday said for the first time that a target destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the Syrian desert in 2007 was a covertly built nuclear reactor, countering assertions by Syria that it had no atomic secrets to hide. Amano spoke in response to a question during a news conference in Paris meant to focus on Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster. Previous IAEA language was more circumspect. In a February report, Amano said features of the bombed structure were "similar to what may be found at nuclear reactor sites."

Airstrike kills Libyan rebels: An apparent NATO airstrike killed at least 10 rebel fighters on Wednesday in the northeast area of Misrata. Libyan opposition leaders said it was unclear whether NATO bombs or rockets and shelling from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces killed the men as they drove on a road that leads to the port of the coastal city. But a doctor in Misrata told the Associated Press that the explosions did come from coalition aircraft, and that 12 people were killed.

Information from the Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times was used in this report.

Syrian crackdown intensifies 04/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 11:59pm]

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