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Free Syrian Army steps up attacks on Assad regime
by Staff Writers
Nicosia (AFP) Nov 16, 2011

The rebel Free Syrian Army, which claimed on Wednesday a bold raid against security forces, boasts thousands of soldiers who defected from the army to join the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

Led by a defected colonel who took shelter in Turkey, Riyadh al-Asaad, the rebel group intensified its operations against the regular army on Wednesday when it struck an air force intelligence base near Damascus.

Asaad announced in July his defection in protest over the regime's violent repression of a protest movement that erupted mid-March, and which has cost more than 3,500 civilian lives, according to UN figures.

The group has claimed responsibility for several deadly operations against Assad's forces, particularly in the northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkey, the central city of Homs and Daraa province in the south.

In late August, the Free Syrian Army merged with the Free Officers Brigade, which was established by Colonel Hussein Harmush, and now counts some 17,000 troops, Captain Hassan told AFP, asking that his last name be withheld.

Colonel Harmush was the first army officer to announce his defection in protest over the army's bloodshed, siding with protesters in early June.

He succeeded in leaving Syria and establishing the Free Officers, comprising dozens of defectors before falling back into the hands of the regime under murky circumstances.

Opposition sources said at the time he was kidnapped in Turkey and handed over to the authorities in Damascus, but the officer declared in a "confession" broadcast by Syrian state television that he had decided to "return" home.

The Free Syrian Army announced on Wednesday the creation of a temporary military council with the aim of ousting Assad's regime and protecting civilians from his forces.

"Based on the requirements of this phase and the demands of the Syrian revolution, the Free Syrian Army is establishing a temporary military council," a statement said.

Colonel Asaad is to chair the council which includes four other colonels,

three lieutenant colonels and a major.

The council aims to "bring down the current regime, protect Syrian civilians from its oppression, protect private and public property and prevent chaos and acts of revenge when it falls."

To that end, the council will organise, arm and train the Free Syrian Army, making its decisions by a two-thirds majority.

The council also aims to set up a police force and a military court to try members of the regime implicated in the murder of civilians, attacks against the population or the sabotage of private and public property.

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