Opposition: Syrian general, 20 soldiers defect

By REUTERS
March 16, 2013 18:53

 
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BEIRUT - A brigadier general and about 20 soldiers defected from the Syrian army in two separate incidents on Saturday, activists said, in another sign that the strength of President Bashar Assad's armed forces is diminishing.

Brigadier General Mohammed Khalouf appeared dressed in a camouflage military uniform in a video on Al Arabiya news channel and said he had planned his escape with the opposition movement for some time.

"It is not possible for anyone to accept any of the ideas of this regime unless they have achieved special interests," he said in the video.

There was no comment about the defection on Syrian state news outlets.

Defection of high-ranking military and political figures has slowed in past months.

But a study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published this week estimated that Assad's forces, thought to be more than 300,000-strong at the start of the uprising two years ago, were now at a much lower effective strength and were likely to diminish further.

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