A senior Syrian general defects
A top Syrian general and one-time confidante of President Bashar al-Assad has defected and is believed to be headed to Paris, a possible blow to Assad's regime.
In what could be the biggest defection from Bashar al-Assad's regime since the start of the Syrian uprising, a senior general and friend of the president has fled the country and is making his way to Paris, according to multiple reports.Skip to next paragraph
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The BBC reports that Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a commander in Syria's elite Republican guard, escaped his home in Damascus, where he was under a form of house arrest, and fled to Turkey in the past few days. General Tlas reportedly split with the regime out of frustration with its deadly crackdown on the opposition. The BBC writes that it is unclear what Tlas's intentions are, but notes that Paris is currently hosting a conference of more than 100 countries that are attempting to resolve the violence in Syria.
Tlas's defection has been confirmed by sources both inside and outside Assad's regime. The pro-government website Syriasteps cited a Syrian official acknowledging Tlas's departure, reports the Daily Telegraph, though the official dismissed Tlas's escape as "not mean[ing] anything." And two other officials, one a Syrian rebel, the other an American, both confirmed Tlas's defection, reports Al Jazeera.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity from Washington, said, "General Tlas is a big name and his apparent decision to ditch Assad hurts, even though it probably didn't come as a surprise".
"Tlas lately seems to have been on the outs, but he's got charisma and some smarts. If he joins the insurgents, that could be significant," the official said.
Joshua Landis of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma wrote on his blog, Syria Comment, that his eyewitness sources say Tlas's home in Damascus was being ransacked on Thursday.