Syrian State Media Reports Scores Of Police Dead
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
In Syria, state media are reporting that at least 120 members of the country's security forces were killed today in a battle with what it called armed organizations. It is the deadliest incident reported by the government since the protest movement began three months ago.
NPR's Deborah Amos is monitoring events in Syria from Beirut. She has this report.
DEBORAH AMOS: Syrian state television described a heated battle in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, near the Turkish border. Gangs armed with machine guns attacked security forces and set fire to government buildings, according to Syrian state TV. In the broadcast, a frantic resident called the evening news program to ask the government to save the town.
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
AMOS: For two days, we are hiding in the basement, she says, ask the president to come after them with planes.
But Syrian activists and Facebook sites give a different account. On Friday, Syrian security forces killed at least 25 protesters using helicopter gunships for the first time. Today, a new military operation was launched in Jisr al-Shughour, but that led to clashes between rival groups within the security police according to the activists.
The competing descriptions are impossible to verify. The Syrian government shut down the Internet over the weekend, which blocked most communications. But a government report of so many deaths among security police may be a turning point after three months of protests, says Turkish political analyst Soli Ozel.
Mr. SOLI OZEL (Political Analyst): And the more people die, the more difficult it becomes for the regime to open up because then resentments, build hatreds, build...
AMOS: Especially after the high death toll this weekend and the failure of the protest movement to reach two key Syrian cities, says Ozel.
Mr. OZEL: So long as the two largest cities in the country, that is Aleppo and Damascus, don't turn against the regime, the regime feels confident that it can actually take care of this with enough brutality.
AMOS: Activists say they expect security forces to mount a major military operation in the coming days to try to stamp out the protest movement near the northern border.
Deborah Amos, NPR News, Beirut.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.