Syria loses 20,000 troops as deserters flee, Turkey says

Bloomberg reports: About 20,000 Syrian soldiers have deserted from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in less than a month, according to Turkish intelligence reports cited by a Foreign Ministry official.

The desertions are in addition to 40,000 military personnel who left before Feb. 20, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with government rules. The Syrian armed forces have a strength of 295,000 active personnel, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 2012 Military Balance.

They have been at the forefront of Assad’s bid to stamp out the yearlong uprising, which yesterday resulted in the seizure of the rebel-held city of Idlib. Some of the soldiers are joining the opposition Free Syrian Army, whose commanders reside in Turkish refugee camps.

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