‘Every Syrian has lost someone. Now we are ready to fight back’

The Independent reports: The sharp pop of gunfire draws little reaction. The soldiers of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) point to a multi-storey house just across the wide valley from their base above the village of Ain al-Baida, about a mile from the Turkish border. “That is where the military is,” says commander Abo Mohammad, who wears a camouflage jacket over civilian clothes and cradles an AK-47.

Unlike many of the 150 fighters he claims are positioned in Ain al-Baida, Mr Mohammad has not defected from the Syrian army. Originally from a village not far from this complex of abandoned buildings that houses the FSA fighters, Mr Mohammad says he spent April and May organising peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In June, when the Syrian military’s infamous 4th Brigade came north, leaving a path of destruction in its wake, Mr Mohammad fled to Turkey, spending two months in a refugee camp near the border. But he grew tired of waiting, and returned to Syria to fight.

“People are dying in Syria,” he said. “No one came to help us. I did not accept what is happening. I can’t be patient, I prefer to die here.”

He is one of a growing number of civilians leaving their homes and joining the military defectors who make up the bulk of the FSA, a symbol of both the powerful hatred many ordinary Syrians feel towards the Assad regime and of how far the country has slid towards civil war.

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