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Top Syrian Official Defects

  • VOA News

General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, the head of Syria's military police, speaks in a video uploaded on a social media website, December 26, 2012.

General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, the head of Syria's military police, speaks in a video uploaded on a social media website, December 26, 2012.

A top Syrian military official who headed the feared military police has told a pan-Arab TV station that he defected and joined Syria's opposition movement.

A video published on a social media website on Wednesday shows the general, Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, saying that he left the government because the Syrian military police have strayed from their primary mission.

"In the name of God E., I am General Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, head of the military police. 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," he explained. "Long live Syria free and strong."

High-Profile Defectors from Syria

  • Prime Minister Riad Hijab defected to Jordan on August 6, two months after taking top post.
  • Nawaf Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq became first Syrian envoy to defect on July 11, 2012.
  • Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, highest ranking military officer to abandon Syrian government on July 6, 2012.
  • Colonel Hassan Hammadeh flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighboring Jordan during a June, 2012, training mission and was granted asylum.
  • Imad Ghalioun, member of Syria’s parliament, left country in January, 2012, to join opposition.
  • Adnan Bakkour, former attorney general of Hama, appeared in video in late August 2011 announcing he had defected.
Al-Shallal is one of dozens of generals who have defected since Syria's crisis began 22 months ago. He is one of the most senior to flee since Manaf Tlass, a Syrian general and a member of the ruling inner circle, defected in July.

The defection comes amid continued diplomacy to end the Syrian crisis.

Peace overtures

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly sent a senior diplomat to ally Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals made by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, meets with UN Arab League deputy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus, Syria, Dec. 24, 2012.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, right, meets with UN Arab League deputy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi in Damascus, Syria, Dec. 24, 2012.

Brahimi, who met with Assad on Monday, is expected to arrive in Moscow on Saturday for further talks with Russian leaders. Russian envoys are reportedly trying to broker a peaceful transition of power in Syria.

Opposition leaders and Western supporters are demanding Assad leave office without conditions.

Renewed violence

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists say government shelling in a northern province near the Turkish border has left at least 20 people dead, including eight children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released a video on Wednesday showing what it said were victims of a government assault on a village in the Raqqa region.

It was not immediately clear when the assault took place. In recent weeks, violence has escalated in the region.

There was no immediate confirmation from the government, which has blamed much of the violence from almost two years of anti-government unrest on terrorists and armed gangs.

Rebel advances

On Tuesday, Syrian rights activists said rebels had captured a northern town near the border with Turkey, driving out government troops after a siege that lasted several weeks.

The activists said the rebels seized the last military base in the Idlib provincial town of Harem early Tuesday, extending rebel control over northern areas adjacent to Turkey.

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