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Syrian general: Hundreds of soldiers, police killed by armed gangs

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Videos show chaos gripping Syria
  • NEW: Security sources say that about 1,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon
  • Syrian military official says 1,300 security personnel wounded
  • Activists say Syrian troops are arresting people returning from refugee camps
  • 700 "terrorists" and their families flee Syria for Turkey, general says

Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- Syria's military spokesman says more than 400 members of security forces have been killed in the months-long unrest that has taken hold in the country, a charge that came as videos surfaced allegedly showing children killed in the violence.

In an interview with CNN in Damascus, Maj. Gen. Riad Haddad said that 1,300 security personnel also were wounded, and that 300 soldiers, 60 security officials and 50 police died in the violence.

He also has said 700 people, whom he described as terrorists, and their families had fled Syrian authorities for Turkey.

Haddad offered no details about the killings of the security forces other than to blame the deaths on armed gangs. CNN cannot independently verify the claim.

President Bashar al-Assad has faced growing criticism from leaders in the United States, Europe and elsewhere over his government's violent clampdown on demonstrators. Al-Assad has repeatedly blamed "armed gangs" in explaining its military crackdowns, which have pushed thousands of Syrians to flee to Turkey.

Security sources in Lebanon told CNN that about 1,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon near the town of Hermel.

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Months of protests have left more than 1,100 dead, according to human rights activists. But the extent of the carnage is not clear. About 10,000 people have been jailed since mid-March when the protests began, said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the London-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights.

CNN cannot independently verify the claims of the activist or the human rights group.

Haddad's claim came as two videos surfaced on YouTube purporting to show a 13-year-old boy killed Friday in al-Kiswah, a suburb of Damascus. In the video, a hand is seen turning the head of the boy to reveal what appears to be a surgical scar. The boy's mother is also seen in the video moaning and cursing al-Assad and his security forces.

A voice on the video identifies the boy as Ridah Alawiyah.

In another video, mourners are seen at a funeral for two children and a man who were said to have been killed in a Damascus suburb. Mourners can be heard chanting: "Patience oh Assad, patience, we will dig your grave."

While the videos appeared to be from Syria, CNN was not able to independently verify their authenticity. The network's reporters had been barred until recently from officially entering Syria, and its reporting about events inside the country had been limited largely to what the network was able to piece together based on official government reports, witnesses in the country and accounts and videos posted on the Internet.

Meanwhile, Syrian state TV reported that some of the thousands who fled to Turkey to escape a military offensive have begun to return to their homes.

About 730 people returned to the town of Jisr al-Shugur, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported. But more than 11,400 Syrians are still in Turkey, the Turkish government said Sunday.

SANA said some residents returned to find electricity, water and phone lines ransacked by armed groups.

But opposition activists countered SANA's report, saying about 500 people were detained in neighboring villages and sent to Jisr al-Shugur ahead of the media's arrival.

Jameel Saib, a Syrian activist who lives on the other side of the border in Turkey, said he saw an interview with an alleged shop owner of a store in Jisr al-Shugur but "everyone knows that is not actually the man that owns the store."

Mohammed Fedo, another activist who lives on the Turkish side of the border, said about 300 to 400 Syrians returned to Jisr al-Shugur because conditions in the refugee camps in Turkey were unbearable.

Fedo said residents who were returning to Jisr al-Shugur were reporting arrests and killings by security forces.

Both activists said they had received reports from residents who said Syrian security forces had entered two towns, Najay and Habosh. Fedo said residents were reporting that Syrian forces were firing indiscriminately.

Haddad, the military spokesman, told CNN the military did enter Habosh but there was no evidence of violence, arrests or casualties. He denied security forces entered Najay.

CNN cannot independently verify the claims of the activists or Haddad.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Jomana Karadsheh and Rima Maktabi contributed to this report.

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