Syrian troops regain control of border town

ELITE Syrian troops backed by helicopters and tanks yesterday regained control of a town where police and soldiers had joined forces with the protesters they were ordered to shoot.

It was a decisive assault from a government prepared for an all-out battle to keep power. Troops led by the president’s brother shelled Jisr al-Shughour as the gunships hovered overhead, paving the way for scores of tanks and armoured personnel carriers to roll in. By early afternoon, the army was in control.

Yesterday’s developments, and actions by opponents of the Syrian government, marked a major departure from what had been a largely peaceful protest movement.

Among them was the discovery of a mass grave filled with uniformed bodies, and the increasing willingness of mutineers and outgunned residents to fight back. President Basher Assad’s response in Jisr al-Shughour, the first town to spin out of government control since the uprising began in mid-March, mirrored his father’s 1980 assault there. It was a clear message to anyone contemplating defiance.

Syrians who fled to the nearby Turkish border said about 60 mutineers were defending the town alongside some 200 unarmed residents. Their fate was unknown last night, but the government reported three deaths in the fighting — one of its own soldiers and two unidentified men.

Meanwhile, The United Arab Emirates yesterday recognised the National Transitional Council in Benghazi of the rebels battling to oust Gaddafi.

The decision to recognise the NTC as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people” was announced by Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan."

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