Free Syrian Army soldiers may have armored vehicles, YouTube videos show

Two videos posted on YouTube in recent days demonstrate rebel claims that defected soldiers fighting in the name of the Free Syrian Army have access to at least some infantry fighting vehicles, which were either captured from the regular army or acquired when whole units defected.


Syrian soldiers who defected to the Free Syrian Army during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib on Jan. 29. (REUTERS)

In another, posted the day before, fighters purportedly maneuver a Soviet-made BMP through the town of Rastan in the central province of Homs, before clambering out of it shouting “God is Great.” Rastan, on the road between Homs and Hama, is one of the areas the Free Syrian Army claims it now controls.

The videos speak to the intensity of the fighting that has been raging in recent days as President Bashar al-Assad’s government seeks to reclaim territory that had fallen under the sway of the Free Syrian Army. The government appears to have been successful in driving the fighters out of the suburbs east of Damascus. But the rebels still claim to be holding territory in the north, notably in Homs and in the far northern province of Idlib, bordering Turkey.

The Free Syrian Army says it consists almost entirely of defected soldiers, though in recent weeks it has become clear that civilians also are joining its ranks.

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Liz Sly is the Post’s Beirut bureau chief. She has spent more than 15 years covering the Middle East, including the Iraq war. Other postings include Africa, China and Afghanistan.

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