Syrian colonel defects and joins rebels, activists say [Video]
Syrian opposition activists claim that more military leaders are defecting to join the rebels in their battle to overthrow President Bashar Assad. In one new video posted by activists, a colonel named Qasim Saad Aldin purportedly defects on camera, flanked by armed officers.
The Times cannot authenticate the video; access to the Syrian battle zones is restricted.
Syrian army defectors have grown to play a more robust role in the revolt, Alexandra Sandels reported last year for The Times. The defectors fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. One of them calls himself Ahmed Arabi:
Arabi, who appears to be in his early 50s, describes himself as a former Syrian army captain and 29-year army veteran who has done a stint in military intelligence. He switched sides in May, he says, disgusted with what he calls regime attacks on peaceful protesters. ...
When defector forces first appeared several months ago, opposition activists generally described their role as protecting unarmed protesters under assault from regime thugs. But the defectors now declare a more offensive role, more akin to that of a guerrilla army.
A Times special correspondent provided another glimpse of the Free Syrian Army last month in a Damascus suburb, which turned out to be quiet for the day:
Farther away, where the town peters out into mud huts and countryside, five men peer from an olive grove. Armed with rusty Kalashnikovs, they are a deployment from the fledgling Free Syrian Army, military defectors who support the opposition.
"We are watching, waiting in case the protesters need us to intervene," says one man, a red kaffiyeh hiding his identity. "We are here to protect them. If the army attacks too strongly, we will fight back."
Soldiers aren't the only ones defecting: Last month a member of the Syrian parliament who represents the protest hub of Homs announced on television that he had joined the opposition:
“The Syrian people are living their worst period,” he reportedly told a news network from Cairo. “The people of Homs are under siege and the city is disaster stricken. There is no electricity, piles of garbage fill the streets. ... The sounds of shelling all night terrify children."
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: A YouTube video purportedly shows a Syrian army colonel defecting to join the opposition.