First high-ranking Christian soldier defects from Syrian army
HATAY / PARIS
Burhan Ghalioun. REUTERS photoA Lieutenant Colonel has defected from the Syrian army, becoming the first high ranked Christian defector from the Syrian regime, according to London-based daily Asharq Alawsat.
Muti Ilyas announced his defection in a video published on Youtube, saying the “Syrian army is far from protecting people and has turned into a force which massacres people on a sectarian basis.”
He said that he believed the Syrian people were a whole with many different religions and sects, and that he was defecting from President Bashar al-Assad’s army as a Christian soldier, Anatolia news agency reported yesterday.
Meanwhile, five more Syrian soldiers defected yesterday and fled to the southeastern Turkish province of Hatay’s Reyhanlı district, along with 90 civilian Syrian citizens. One major, one captain and three private soldiers were sent to refugee camps in Hatay, according to local sources.
In addition, 11 wounded Syrian civilians entered Turkey and the Red Crescent started treatment right away. Syrian army defectors, based at a heavily concealed military camp in a mountainous and forested area near the Turkish-Syrian border, said there were Alawites and Christians among their numbers. Around eight percent of the total 23 million Syrian population are Christians.
Tlass in Paris
Meanwhile, stalwart of the Syrian regime and former defense minister Mustafa Tlass has arrived in Paris with his wife and his businessman son, but they are not thought to be defecting, opposition representatives told Agence France-Presse yesterday.
Mohamad al-Rashdan, member of the National Committee for Support of the Syrian Revolution, said: “He has been in France for five days following an argument with Assef Shawkat, (President) Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law.”
A source close to the Syrian community in exile said: “I don’t think this is a defection. He will be here a while but it is with the regime’s authorization.” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said he could not confirm Tlass’s presence.