Heavy fighting in a Syrian town

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A Western diplomatic source in Amman has confirmed sketchy reports from Syria of heavy fighting in the town of Hama, Monitor correspondent John Yemma reports.

Little news of the fighting is getting out of Damascus, but it appears that radical Muslims staged a major uprising for control of Hama against the government of President Hafez al-Assad. One government brigade is reported to have revolted and joined the Muslim fighters. The Islamic Front, an umbrella organization for Muslim groups in Syria, said about 3,000 people have been killed or wounded.

The regime of President Assad, who has been in power for 10 years, has been besieged by insurgency for the past three years. To control the majority Sunni population, Mr. Assad's minority Alawite government has resorted to widespread arrests. Fifty Air Force pilots were reportedly hanged Jan. 29.

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