DAMASCUS, July 30, (AFP) - Syrian troops shot dead three people who stoned a massive military convoy Saturday as it headed to quash growing anti-regime dissent in the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor, an activist said.
Meanwhile a man identifying himself as a Syrian army colonel told AFP in Nicosia that he had defected and has “hundreds” of troops under his command ready to confront the regular army in Deir Ezzor.
Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a convoy of about 60 military vehicles including tanks, personnel carriers and trucks crammed with soldiers deployed in Deir Ezzor, mainly at the governor's office.
“The troops opened fire to frighten residents after reaching the governor's office,” Abdel Rahman said, quoting witnesses in the eastern city.
There were mounting fears the army was preparing to crack down on Deir Ezzor, increasingly at the forefront of more than four months of protests against the autocratic regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“People chanted 'Allahu akbar' (God is greater) in the city as a warning against a huge military operation and residents began setting up sand barricades to prevent the army from spreading into the city,” Abdel Rahman said.
As the tanks and military vehicles rumbled towards Deir Ezzor they were confronted by an angry mob from the nearby village of Tibneh who hurled stones at the troops to stop their advance.