BEIRUT - Syrian army commanders have ordered troops to halt protests against President Bashar Assad "by all means necessary", often giving explicit instructions to fire on demonstrators, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
In a report based on dozens of interviews with army and intelligence defectors, it quoted one special forces soldier saying his brigade was told to "use as many bullets as you want" on protesters in the southern province of Deraa in April.
A sniper in the city of Homs said his commanders ordered that a specific percentage of demonstrators should die. "For 5,000 protesters, for example, the target would be 15 to 20 people," he told Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The United Nations says 5,000 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests which erupted in March, inspired by uprisings which have brought down three Arab leaders.