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Soldiers in Syria fire on country's secret police amid crackdown on protests

Army troops in the city of Homs have fired on members of the Syrian secret police.
Syria protests army 2011 5 6Enlarge
In a photo approved by Syria's government, Syrian youths wave national flags in support of President Bashar al-Assad as they ride on an army personnel carrier. (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Eyewitnesses have confirmed for GlobalPost that Syrian army personnel fired on members of the country's secret police in the western city of Homs, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been violently cracking down on protesters in recent weeks.

The clash occurred after the police opened fire on thousands of protesters who had gathered in the city. Some of the protesters ran for cover behind army vehicles. When the police continued to shoot, the army shot back, the sources said.

It is the first reported incident of the Syrian army clashing with the country's feared secret police, and could point to a shift in the military's loyalties.

It appeared though that incident was largely isolated. Syrian military personnel for the most part followed orders to fan out across the country, with tanks in tow, to disperse the large protests on Friday, which has been deemed a "Day of Defiance." Tens of thousands of Syrians in several cities, including Damascus, the capital, took to the streets.

Protests have also spread to campuses throughout the country, including Damascus University, which has long been a bastion of loyalty for the Assad regime and the ruling Baath Party. Undercover security agents are now roaming the school's hallways, detaining — and in some cases beating — anyone who speaks out.

Several news agencies, meanwhile, are reporting that at least six people have so far been killed in clashes between protesters and Syrian security forces on Friday alone.

Human rights groups also reported on Friday that Riad Seif, a leading opposition figure who has been outspoken in his criticisms of the regim since the protest movement began almost two months ago, was arrested by Syrian authorities.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/casbah/soldiers-syria-fire-countrys-secret-police-amid-crackdown-protest