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SYRIA: Army, police officers defect, cross into Turkey

June 16, 2011 | 10:10 am

As Syrian troops sweep the country's northwestern province in a widening deadly campaign to root out dissent against Syrian leader Bashar Assad, a number of high-ranking Syrian army officers and policemen defected and crossed into Turkey Thursday, fleeing the violent crackdown, Turkish media reports say.

The semi-official Anatolia news agency said a Syrian lieutenant colonel and four soldiers had deserted their positions and taken shelter in Turkey "after violence between government forces and anti-Assad protesters in Syria."

Amateur video footage claiming to show army defection has surged in the last few days on the Internet, including one clip from the town of Quriya in the Dair Alzour province that purports to show the desertion of Syrian soldiers adjoining demonstrators on Monday.

In the clip linked to above, crowds are heard chanting "the people and the army -- one hand" as what appears to be a military truck moves along a road. A man wearing what seems to be a uniform is seen standing in the vehicle with his hand raised in the air as onlookers cheer him on.

On Thursday, pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera aired video footage of an alleged captain in the Syrian Army's 14th Brigade, in which he announces that he has defected and has joined the pro-democracy demonstrators. 

The man, identifying himself as the Capt. Ibrahim Munir Majhur of the ranks of the 556th Regiment, 14th Special Forces Brigade, said he took decided to defect because of what he said was the Syrian army's implication in the oppression of peaceful demonstrations, the army's involvement in raids on peaceful cities and the forces' involvement in the protection of thugs and gangs linked to the Assad family.

"I therefore announce that I have defected from the Army and the Armed Forces and have joined the
peaceful Syrian revolution," said Majhur.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video: A soldier purportedly opens fire with a handgun on protesters in the Syrian city of Homs in this unconfirmed video uploaded to the internet on Thursday. Credit: YouTube