Syrian Military Police Commander Defects, Criticizes Army
December 26, 2012
Syria's military police chief has defected from President Bashar al-Assad's regime and has reportedly fled to Turkey.
Major General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal appeared in a video aired late on December 25 by Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV, saying he is joining 'the people's revolution.'
''I have defected because of the deviation of the army from its primary duty of protecting the country and its transformation into gangs of killing and destruction, the destruction of cities and villages, and committing massacres against our unarmed people who went out to demand liberty,' al-Shallal said. 'Long live Syria free and strong.'
Shallal said there 'definitely' are other high-ranking officers in the Syrian government's security forces who want to defect. But he said it 'is not suitable for them to declare defection' yet because of close monitoring by the government.
Dozens of generals have defected since Syria's uprising began in March 2011. Shallal, a Sunni Muslim, is one of the most senior among them and held a top post at the time he apparently fled Syria.
In July, Munaf Tlass, a Sunni Muslim who was a brigadier general in the elite Syrian Republican Guard and a member of Assad's inner circle, defected and took refuge in France.
A month later, Riad Hijab quit his post as prime minister and fled to Jordan.
The main defectors are Sunni Muslims, the same sect of most of rebels fighting to oust Assad.
A majority of the government officials and army officers who are still loyal to Assad are from the minority Alawite sect, to which the president belongs.
Meanwhile, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on December 25 that more than 1,000 people have been killed in Syria during the past week -- raising the overall death toll since the uprising began to more than 45,000 people.
Opposition activists say government forces were fighting rebels on December 25 in the areas of al-Zabadani, Darya, and al-Tadamun near the capital Damascus. They say 17 army officers and 50 soldiers in al-Zabadani have defected and joined the rebels -- who have been fighting government troops in and around Damascus for weeks.
Fierce fighting also was reported on December 25 in areas along Syria's northern border with Turkey.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, and Al Arabiya TV
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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