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Report: Top Syrian general joins opposition

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 26, 2012 at 6:38 a.m.

— The general who heads Syria’s military police has defected and joined the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, one of the highest walkouts by a serving security chief during the country’s 21-month uprising, a pan Arab TV station has reported.

Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal appeared in a video aired on Al Arabiya TV late Tuesday saying he is joining “the people’s revolution.”

Al-Shallal’s defection comes as military pressure builds on the regime, with government bases falling to rebel assault near the capital Damascus and elsewhere across the country. On Wednesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government shelling in the northeastern province of Raqqa killed at least 20 people, including women and children.

Dozens of generals have defected since Syria’s crisis began in March 2011. In July, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass was the first member of Assad’s inner circle to break ranks and join the opposition.

Al-Shallal is one of the most senior and held a top post at the time that he left. He said in the video that the “army has derailed from its basic mission of protecting the people and it has become a gang for killing and destruction.” He accused the military of “destroying cities and villages and committing massacres against our innocent people who came out to demand freedom.”

Thousands of Syrian soldiers have defected over the past 21 months and many of them are now fighting against government forces. Many have cited attacks on civilians as the reason they switched sides.

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