Conflict & Justice

Syria texts rebels: 'Game over, from the Syrian Army'


A rebel sits in a van as he checks the area in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Aug. 19, 2012. Militants sympathetic to Al Qaeda are a growing presence in Aleppo.


Bulent Kilic

Syrian cell phone users have reported receiving texts messages with the sinister words: "Game over."

According to the Associated Press, the texts are signed "the Syrian Arab Army."

They tell recipients to surrender and warn that "the countdown to evict foreign fighters has begun," the AP reports.

The news agency doesn't specify how many people say they received the messages. Damascus residents said they were delivered only to people with cell phone contracts, not pre-paid numbers.

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The country's leading cell phone provider, SyriaTel, is owned by President Bashar al-Assad's cousin.

Complaints of the authorities interfering with communications are common. According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the government has disabled mobile phones, landlines, electricity and the internet as part of attempts to stop people documenting and broadcasting the conflict.

Even before protests broke out, writes GlobalPost's Hugh Macleod, Syrians had to live under long-standing emergency laws that gave state security the right to tap private citizens' phones and read their emails.

Nor is Assad's regime any stranger to psychological warfare: in August, military helicopters dropped thousands of leaflets over both Damascus and Aleppo telling rebels to drop their weapons or face "inevitable death."

Those intimidation tactics were met with defiance. "I can't believe how disconnected from reality they are," one rebel fighter in Aleppo told Agence France Presse. "[Assad] probably thinks all the people in Syria are as stupid as he is."

Activists estimate that some 30,000 people have died in the 18 months of Syria's conflict, more than 300 of them on Wednesday alone.

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