Three more Syrian army officers have defected to Turkey, adding to the exodus of those who have already abandoned the regime of Bashar al-Assad in previous days and weeks.
The Associated Press said the three new defectors comprise two generals and a colonel, citing reports from Turkey’s state-controlled television, TRT.
The report of the latest defections has not been confirmed by Turkish government officials yet.
TRT added that since Thursday, more than 200 Syrians have crossed into Turkey. All told, Turkey has accepted about 12,000 Syrians who are now residing in six refugee camps near the border.
On Thursday, the former deputy oil minister of Syria, Abdo Husameddine, reportedly defected, followed by four other military officials.
However, the current whereabouts of Husameddine, who announced his defection on social media, is unknown. It is also unclear exactly how many former Syrian military and government officials have defected.
Lieutenant Khaled al-Hamoud, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told western media on Thursday: We have six brigadier generals who are now in Turkey and another, who has stayed to lead some battalions inside Syria. We plan to form an advisory council to absorb these and any other high-ranking defections and this group will plan operations for the FSA.
The defections come amidst a flurry of activity in Syria: government forces have apparently expanded their brutal crackdown on the northern province of Idlib, near the Turkish border; former U.N. chief Kofi Annan is expected to meet with Assad in Damascus on Saturday; and U.N. humanitarian official Valerie Amos has toured Syrian refugee camps near the Turkish border following her visit to the devastated city of Homs.
Syrian opposition groups, including the Free Syrian Army, are gravely concerned over the fate of the family members of the defectors who are trapped in Syria. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Assad’s forces have either arrested or killed the relatives of some defectors.