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NATO: Syrian forces firing Scud missiles
From: CNN          Published On: December 21, 2012, 11:24 GMT
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 NATO: Syrian forces firing Scud missiles

Crater where a Scud missile allegedly landed near the military base of Sheikh Suleiman on December 13, 2012.

In an escalation of the civil war, Syria is firing more Scud missiles in a desperate attempt to quash rebel gains, the NATO chief said Friday.

The government has launched missiles in recent days, according to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary-general of the alliance.

"I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud type missiles," Rasmussen said. "I consider it an act of a desperate regime approaching collapse."

Though the missiles have not hit Turkey, Rasmussen said, the development highlights the need for a protection plan for the neighboring nation.

The move represents an escalation in the war, which has threatened to draw neighboring countries and militant groups.

Earlier this month, a U.S. official also accused Syria of using Scud missiles.

U.S. military satellites confirmed the infrared signature of the four short-range Scud missiles launched from the Damascus area into northern Syria, according to an official. The official declined to be named, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

Analysts say the government of President Bashar al-Assad maintains up to 400 of the short- and medium-range Russian-developed Scud missiles.

The Syrian civil war started in March 2011 when a government crackdown on civilian demonstrators morphed into a fight between the regime and rebels.

The conflict has seized the attention of world powers for months because of the relentless brutality and the deaths of tens of thousands.

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