Tuesday, October 4, 2011
"ISTANBUL — The highest-ranking officer to defect from Syria's armed forces said on Tuesday he had taken refuge in Turkey, denying claims that he had been arrested when Syrian troops overran a rebel stronghold, state-run Anatolian news agency said.
"We live in a safe place in Turkey, I am grateful to the government and people of Turkey. Turkish officials cared about us," Colonel Riad al-Asaad said in an interview datelined Hatay in southern Turkey.
Armed resistance to President Bashar al-Assad's rule has emerged in recent weeks, six months into a pro-democracy uprising that government forces have tried to crush with violent tactics.
"All of my needs are being met by Turkish officials," said Asaad, who has emerged as commander of the rebel Syrian Free Army. "The opposition forces in Syria must unite and strengthen their stand until the regime is demolished."
The rebel colonel's presence in Hatay, now home to several thousand Syrian refugees, will add to tensions between Ankara and Damascus....."