A top Syrian general close to President Bashar Assad's family has defected and fled to France, AFP reported Friday (July 6th).
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius confirmed during a news conference in Paris that Gen. Munaf Tlass, a commander in the Republican Guard, has defected and is headed for Paris.
The commander of the Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, also confirmed the general's defection, telling Al-Jazeera from Turkey, "Our people picked [Tlass] up from the border with Syria".
Tlass, who was a childhood friend of President Assad, is the highest-ranking military officer to abandon the regime. He is the son of former defence minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of former Syrian president Hafez Assad.
According to Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the defection "will be a painful blow to the Syrian regime and its inner circle", AFP quoted him as saying.