Syria forces storm main town, fight defectors-residents

AMMAN, Sept 27 Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:20am EDT

AMMAN, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Syrian forces backed by tanks and helicopters stormed a strategic town on Tuesday after fighting with army defectors, in a major operation to subdue pro-democracy protests in the centre of the country, residents said.

Tens of tanks and armoured vehicles entered Rastan, a town of 40,000 on the highway to Turkey near the city of Homs, after pounding it overnight with heavy machineguns from tanks and attack helicopters following a two-day siege, they said. (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by David Stamp)