Report: 3 Syrian army officers defect to Turkey

Report: 3 Syrian army officers defect to Turkey

ANKARA - The Associated Press
Report: 3 Syrian army officers defect to Turkey

AFP photo

Two Syrian generals and a colonel have defected to Turkey, the country's state-run television reported on Friday as the Syrian forces appeared to be targeting more rebellious areas, including the northern province of Idlib near Turkey.

The report of the defections came as U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured Syrian refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border before talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

TRT television said the three former officers were among 234 Syrians who crossed into Turkey since Thursday. Some 12,000 Syrians now live in six refugee camps in Turkey.

Turkey's crisis management agency said at least 335 Syrians had crossed into Turkey since Wednesday, but could not confirm the report of the army defections. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available to confirm the report.

Assad's regime has suffered a steady stream of low-level army defectors, who have joined a group of dissidents known as the Free Syrian Army, now numbering in the thousands.

On Thursday, Syria's deputy oil minister became the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition and urged his countrymen to "abandon this sinking ship" as the nation spirals toward civil war. Abdo Husameddine, 58, announced in a video that he has defected from President Bashar Assad's regime.

Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik, who fled to Turkey in January, was the highest ranking officer to bolt. In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected.

Authorities reported he had been kidnapped and said he was being kept against his will by gunmen. He has not been heard from since.