Syria - Reuters - December 14, 2011
Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Assad near Qamishli. Photo by Reuters
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At least 27 Syrian military and security personnel were killed Thursday in clashes with deserters in the restive province of Daraa, reported the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The clashes erupted at three checkpoints in the southern province, added the London-based group. The observatory did not report about possible casualties among the defectors.

Eight army troopers were killed Wednesday when defectors ambushed their convoy in the province of Hama shortly after army units killed five civilians, according to activists.

Meanwhile, a human rights group says dozens of Syrian military commanders and officials authorized or gave direct orders for widespread killings and torture during the country's wave of anti-government protests that began nine months ago.

Human Rights Watch released its 88-page report on Thursday. The report is based on more than 60 interviews with defectors from the Syrian military and intelligence agencies. It identifies 74 commanders and officials behind the alleged abuse.

Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar Assad told ABC's Barbara Walters that he never ordered the brutal suppression of the uprising in his country.

Anna Neistat, associate director for emergencies at HRW, says in the report that Assad "must have known about the abuses."