ANKARA - Reuters
The deputy police chief of Syria's western Latakia city, a brigadier-general, defected and fled to Turkey overnight with 11 other Syrian officers, a Turkish official said today.
The police commander ranks as one of the most senior police officers to quit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's security apparatus and joins scores of other military officers who have defected and are now in Turkey.
The Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not name the deputy police commander but said he came from Syria's Sunni
The officer corps of Syria's security forces are mostly composed of members of Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, which has dominated the power structure in the mostly Sunni country for the last five decades.
Alawites control the military through their domination of the officer corps and direct the Soviet-style intelligence and secret police apparatus entrusted with preventing dissent.
Sunni officers usually hold administrative posts and are closely watched by the mostly Alawite intelligence apparatus.
There are now more than 20 generals and scores of other officers sheltering in Turkey from where they direct rebel operations inside Syria with logistical help from their hosts.
Most of the higher-ranking officers live in a highly-guarded camp in Apaydin, in Turkey's Hatay province near the border.
Around 600 Syrians also crossed over into Turkey in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to around 43,500, the official said. The flow of refugees into Turkey has not noticeably increased since Assad's army began an offensive in the northern city of Aleppo.