BEIRUT/PARIS - Four more high-ranking officers have defected from the Syrian armed forces and joined the year-old uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule, two rebel groups said on Thursday.
The men fled over the past three days to a camp for Syrian army deserters in southern Turkey, according to Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). He told Reuters by telephone from Turkey the desertions bring to seven the number of brigadier generals who have defected.
The seven are the highest-ranking officers to abandon Assad, and the rank is the fifth highest in the Syrian armed forces. Mustafa Sheikh was the first brigadier general to announce his defection.
"We have six brigadier generals who are now in Turkey and another, who has stayed to lead some battalions inside Syria," Hamoud said. "We plan to form an advisory council to absorb these and any other high-ranking defections and this group will plan operations for the FSA."
A Paris-based spokesman for Sheikh's Supreme Syrian Military Council, Fahad al-Masri, said the four recent defectors were still under the observation of Turkish authorities and their names could not yet be released.