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U.S. official: Syrian government fired Scud missiles at rebels

December 12, 2012|By David S. Cloud and Kathleen Hennessey
  • Syrian residents carry their belongings Tuesday after their homes were damaged by fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo.
Syrian residents carry their belongings Tuesday after their homes were… (Narciso Contreras / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- The Syrian government has fired half a dozen Scud missiles at insurgents in recent days, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

The missiles were launched from near Damascus into rebel-held areas of northern Syria, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence information.

Although recent rebel advances have raised fears that Syrian President Bashar Assad might turn to chemical weapons, the official said there was no sign that the missiles carried chemical agents.

The use of Scud missiles would mark an escalation in the Syrian conflict, which has lasted more more than a year and a half.

Scuds, first developed by the Soviet Union, are hefty, notoriously inaccurate ballistic missiles. They are often labeled as “terror weapons.”

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he could not confirm the reports that Scud missiles had been used, but said that, “if true, this would be the latest desperate act from a regime that has shown utter disregard for innocent life.”

“The idea that the Syrian regime would launch missiles within its borders at its own people is stunning, desperate and a completely disproportionate military escalation,” Carney said.

He said Syrian government efforts to defeat the opposition with military force were failing as the rebels became more unified and organized. More than 100 countries reportedly recognized a Syrian opposition coalition Wednesday, shortly after President Obama stated that the group formed in November was the “legitimate representative” of the Syrian people.

“We are working with our international partners to help strengthen the opposition and to further isolate and sanction the Assad regime,” Carney said. “Again, if this -- if this proves to be true, it's just another identification of the depravity of Assad and his cronies.”

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Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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