Free Syrian Army video may verify armed insurgency


Syrian army defectors say they will try to protect civilians and attack government security forces in this still image taken from amateur video footage shot near Damascus. The Washington Post cannot independently verify the video. (REUTERS TV/REUTERS)

Stamped with the logo of the Free Syrian Army — a group of soldiers who have defected from the regular army and to form a rebel force along the Turkish border -- the video appears to show the moment a Syrian tank is hit by what appears to be a rocket-propelled grenade as it drives through a residential neighborhood in the central city of Homs.

As the tank explodes in a ball of flame, a voice, perhaps the cameraman’s, excitedly shouts, “God is Great.” Syrian soldiers are seen running from the blazing vehicle as gunfire erupts all around.

In recent weeks, the Free Syrian Army has been claiming a growing number of attacks against the Syrian security forces in postings on its Facebook page. An increase in military casualties reported by the official SANA news agency suggests there have been some attacks.

But there has been little independent evidence to verify that the Free Syrian Army has the capacity to mount effective attacks.

In the video, the camera pans to a second tank which also appears to have been hit, then zooms in on an injured soldier and a body lying on the ground. “These are the tanks that were destroyed by the Free Syrian Army,” the voice says.

Capt. Aiham al-Kurdi, a member of the Free Syrian Army who is in Turkey, said the attack occurred on Wednesday in the Bab Amro neighborhood of Homs, but that could not be independently confirmed. Bab Amro had become a stronghold for army defectors and was the target of a recent offensive by Syrian security forces to drive them out. If an attack indeed took place on Wednesday, the ambush suggests the offensive did not work.

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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