Opposition: Former Syria Defense Minister Defects in Break With Assad

Wednesday, 04 Sep 2013 11:29 AM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
Former Syrian Defense Minister General Ali Habib, a prominent member of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, has defected and is now in Turkey, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told Reuters on Wednesday.

If his defection is confirmed, Habib would be the highest ranking figure from the Alawite minority to break with Assad since the uprising against his rule began in 2011.

"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.

A Gulf source told Reuters that Habib had defected on Tuesday evening, arriving at the Turkish frontier before midnight with two or three other people. He was then taken across the border in a convoy of vehicles.

His companions were fellow military officers who supported his defection, the source said. They were believed to have also left Syria but there was no immediate confirmation of that.

Labwani said Habib was smuggled out of Syria with the help of a Western country.

"He will be a top source of information. Habib has had a long military career. He has been effectively under house arrest since he defied Assad and opposed killing protesters," Labwani said.

An officer in the opposition Free Syrian Army, who did not want to be identified, said the Habib appeared to have coordinated his defection with the United States.

Former military officers who have defected from Assad's army say it had about 36,000 officers, of which 28,000 are Alawites. The remaining 8,000 are a mix of Sunni Muslims, the majority community in Syria, and members of minorities such as Christians and Druze, they said.

Born in 1939, Habib was defense minister from 2009 to August 2011, when he was replaced for what official media said were health reasons.

After rumors that he was dismissed for opposing the killing of peaceful pro-democracy protesters, Habib was shown on state television pledging his loyalty to the Assad government. Western diplomats said the statement appeared to have been made under duress.

Habib participated in the 1973 October War against Israel, in which Syria failed to recapture the occupied Golan Heights, and in the 1990-91 Gulf War, when Hafez Assad, Bashar's father and predecessor as president, symbolically joined a U.S.-led coalition that ousted Iraq occupation troops from Kuwait.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Once Maligned, Iran's Jews Find Greater Acceptance

Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 07:35 AM

More than a thousand people trekked across Iran this past week to visit a shrine in this ancient Persian city, a pilgrim . . .

Staff Backlash over Charity's Award for Tony Blair

Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 06:55 AM

Almost 200 staff at the global charity Save the Children have signed a letter condemning its decision to give former Bri . . .

Christians Hold Out in Syria's Aleppo Despite Jihadist Threat

Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 06:38 AM

Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Syria's war-wracked second city Aleppo but many others are determined to hold  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved