The top leader of the Syrian military police has defected from the regime to join the rebels, he announced Wednesday via a YouTube video, saying that President Bashar al-Assad’s army has turned into “murderous” gangs.
“I, General Abdel Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, commander of Syrian military police, announce that I am defecting from the regime army, to join the people’s revolution,” General Abdel Aziz Jassem al-Shallal said in the video, which was translated by Al Jazeera.
Shallal is the latest, high-level Syrian official to defect from the regime in the 21-month conflict that has left well over 40,000 people dead. In August, Prime Minister Riad Hijab left the regime.
“The army has deviated from its essential mission, which is to protect the country, and it has morphed into murderous, destructive gangs,” he said. The video was distributed by opposition activists.
“The destruction of cities and villages, and the commission of massacres against our people, defenseless civilians, who took to the streets calling for freedom” was reason enough to defect to the Syrian rebels, Shallal said in the video, while wearing a camouflage uniform with officer insignia.
His defection will likely adversely affect Syrian troop morale while they are fighting to defend bases against a series of advances made by the rebels.
The BBC reported that the opposition said Shallal was secretly cooperating with the rebels from the get-go.
“Definitely, there are other high-ranking officers who want to defect but the situation is not suitable for them to declare defection,” Shallal said, according to Saudi Arabia-owned Al Arabiya, which first aired his declaration. But he said that Assad has implemented heavy surveillance to prevent them from defecting.
The rebel Free Syrian Army is in control of large areas of Syria, he said. Shallal contended that if Assad is threatened any more, then he might use chemical weapons. He claimed that chemical weapons were recently used to bomb Syrian opposition fighters in Homs. The claim has not been verified.
A source in the Syrian government told Al Jazeera that Shallal’s defection does not mean much because he was slated to retire.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that has documented the deaths and other developments in the conflict, said that 20 people were killed on Wednesday after the government bombarded farms in north-central Syria. Eight of those who died were children, it said.
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