Last Updated: Thu Nov 17, 2011 14:10 pm (KSA) 11:10 am (GMT)

Russia likens attack on Syrian intelligence headquarters to ‘civil war’

Syrian army defectors say they will try to protect civilians in their attacks on Syrian security forces. (Reuters)
Syrian army defectors say they will try to protect civilians in their attacks on Syrian security forces. (Reuters)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that an attack on an intelligence complex by Syrian army defectors resembled a civil war like situation as he repeated Moscow’s call for talks between Syria’s government and its opponents.

He said such talks should take place at the headquarters of The Arab League.

“We see television reports that say some new force, the so-called Free Syrian Army I believe, organized an attack on a government building ... belonging to the Syrian armed forces. This is already similar to real civil war,” Lavrov told reporters after a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna in Moscow.

Russia has also called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement his promised reforms at a faster pace but also blamed his opponents for the violence.

The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility on Thursday for an attack on the intelligence and security headquarters. The group which is comprised of defected armed forces personnel belongs to the main opposition in Syria.

The group members released a video on July 29 urging other army member to join.

The attack had left 20 security police dead or wounded, prompting retaliation by security forces on the neighborhood, residents and opposition sources said on Thursday.

Wednesday’s attack on an Air Force Intelligence complex in Harasta was the first on a major security target in the eight month uprising against Assad, indicating that fighting could be spreading to Syria's centers of power.

“The defectors used rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns and managed to inflict casualties on those who were within the ... outer wall,” said an operative involved in supplying the defectors.

There was no confirmation of the attack from authorities. Syria’s ban on most foreign media makes it hard to verify reports of events on the ground from activists or officials.

One of the residents of the suburb, who declined to be named, said there were no casualties among the attackers, and that the operation lasted for 10 minutes. He said the defectors were mostly from the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Douma, which have taken the brunt of a crackdown on protests demanding Assad's removal in rural Damascus.

Residents said around 70 people have been arrested in the last 24 hours, with Air Force Intelligence agents raiding houses and destroying several businesses.

“Roadblocks have been set up everywhere in Harasta, especially in al-Seil neighborhood, where activists are concentrated. Five textile workshops were ransacked,” another resident said.

“Air Force intelligence trucks are patrolling the suburb also, and the agents are carrying RPGs,” he said.

The eight-month violent crackdown against civilians, which according to the United Nations has killed more than 3,500 Syrians, compelled the Arab League to suspend Syria’s membership and possibly place economic sanctions against it if the killings are not halted.

The Arab League’s decision incurred the wrath of pro-Syrian regime protesters who have attacked Arab missions in the country.

The Syrian government on Thursday issued a statement saying that any individual attacking an embassy in the country will be brought for trial.

In related news, China said Thursday it was very worried about the situation in Syria, which is being pressed to implement an Arab League peace plan to end eight months of bloodshed.

“China is highly concerned about the developments in Syria,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.

Russia joined China last month in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Assad's government.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Revolution General Committee said on Thursday five protesters were killed in the country.

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