Under the rattle of heavy gunfire and loud explosions, Syrian troops today regained control of the restive northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour, clashing with mutinous soldiers whose decision to side with armed protesters posed a potent threat to the authoritarian regime. Residents who fled to Turkey said thousands of young men, including soldiers and police who switched sides and joined the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, had armed themselves and planted dynamite at the town entrances.
Troops today removed 10 uniformed bodies from a mass grave in front of the Military Police building. At least four were beheaded or struck on the head with an ax, according to an AP reporter invited to accompany the Syrian forces. The building was burned and there were bloodstains in some rooms, which bolstered reports of a mutiny last week in the town. Jisr al-Shughour's streets were deserted—residents said nearly everyone had fled in recent days—and there were piles of debris. Turkey has given sanctuary to more than 5,000 Syrians, nearly all of them in the past week from around Jisr al-Shughour. A resident who fled said the army shelled Jisr al-Shughour, then tanks rolled in, fighting about 60 army defectors whose fate was unknown. He said about 200 unarmed men who were guarding the town are believed to have been killed or detained. (Read more Syria stories.)