AMMAN - Former Syrian Defence Minister General Ali Habib, a prominent member of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect, has defected and is now in Turkey, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters on Wednesday.
"Ali Habib has managed to escape from the grip of the regime and he is now in Turkey, but this does not mean that he has joined the opposition. I was told this by a Western diplomatic official," Kamal al-Labwani said from Paris.
Syrian state television said on Wednesday that Ali Habib had not left the country, denying reports of his defection.
"There is no truth to what the media has reported on the travel of former defense minister Ali Habib Mahmoud outside of Syria and he is still in his home," Syrian state television quoted an official source as saying.
If his defection is confirmed, Habib would be the highest ranking Alawite figure to break with Assad since the uprising against his rule began in 2011.