Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army



Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army Beirut: Residents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in central Syria, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their two-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad's autocratic regime.

The escalation raised fears the popular uprising may be moving toward a Libya-style armed conflict.

Until now, the opposition against Assad has taken the form of peaceful protests by unarmed demonstrators, though authorities have claimed, without offering solid proof, that it was being led by armed gangs and propelled by foreign conspiracies.

Activists said residents of the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan, which have been under attack since Sunday in central Homs province, decided to fight back with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at least four civilians were killed.

"They felt that they cannot sit back any more and pray for God to help them," said one Homs resident who has wide connections in the province.

He, like all residents contacted by The Associated Press, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Another two bodies were found early Monday in the area of Bab Amro cemetery, raising the death toll from the two-day crackdown in the country's turbulent heartland to 15, said the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, which helps organize and document the protests.

State media said four soldiers were killed. "The army is facing armed resistance and is not able to enter the two towns," the Homs resident said.

"The army is still outside the towns and I was told that army vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, were set on fire."

PTI