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Assad 'Regrets' Downing Of Turkish Plane, As Reports Emerge Of Syrian 'Torture Centers'

Worldcrunch

CUMHURIYET (Turkey), HÜRRIYET (Turkey), BBC NEWS (UK)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has finally responded to last month's shooting down of a Turkish plane after it entered Syrian airspace, saying he regretted the incident.

"We learned that it the jet belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 percent: "if only we had not shot it down"," Assad told the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet in an interview published on Tuesday. He said that he believed the plane was flying in an area previously used by Israel's air force.

His comments emerge as fighting rages throughout Syria in what the Turkish daily Hürriyet says is increasingly taking on the character of an all-out civil war, fueled by sectarian hatred.

On Tuesday, 85 Syrian soldiers, including 14 senior officers, defected across the Turkish border -- one of the biggest defections since the beginning of the uprising in Syria in March 2011, according to BBC News.

Meanwhile, Syria is being accused of practising a widespread policy of state-sanctioned torture, as part of an effort to crush dissent, a Human Rights Watch report says. The New York-based human rights organization calls the system of torture centers in Syria a "torture archipelago," a reference to Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel "The Gulag Archipelago" in which he described Siberian gulags.

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