View Full Version : AP: High-ranking Syrian general defects [ To Rebels! ]

16th March 2013, 20:19
Some months ago you will remember that rumors circulated the internet, claiming that along with some Syrian generals, the Saudi Prince Bandar had been killed in an explosion while in a meeting.

Well, AP reports today that a "high-ranking general" has defected to the rebels.


High-ranking Syrian general defects from army
By BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press – 1 hr 50 mins ago

BEIRUT (AP) — A high-ranking general in the Syrian army defected on Saturday with the help of rebels and said morale is low among those still fighting for President Bashar Assad as the civil war enters its third year.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf told Al-Arabiya TV that many of those still with Assad's regime have lost faith in it.

"It not an issue of belief or practicing one's role," he said. "It's for appearance's sake, to present an image to the international community from the regime that it pulls together all parts of Syrian society under this regime."

Activist videos posted online Saturday showed Khalouf sitting with a rebel fighter after his defection and riding in a car to what the video said was the Jordanian border.

The video said he was Chief of Staff for the army branch that deals with supplies and fuel.

While widespread defections from the Syrian army have sapped it of much of its manpower during the two-year-old anti-Assad uprising, high-level defections have been rare.

The Syrian government did not comment on the defection.

Still, cracks continue to spread slowly through Assad's regime as rebel forces slowly expand their areas of control in the country and put increasing pressure on the capital, Damascus.

Also Saturday, Human Rights Watch said Syria's government is expanding its use of widely banned cluster bombs.

The New York-based rights group said Syrian forces have dropped at least 156 cluster bombs in 119 locations across the country in the past six months, causing mounting civilian casualties. The report said two strikes in the past two weeks killed 11 civilians, including two women and five children.

The regime denied using cluster bombs, which open in flight, scattering smaller bomblets and have been banned in many countries. They pose a threat to civilians long afterward since many don't explode immediately.

Human Rights Watch said it based its findings on field investigations and analysis of more than 450 amateur videos.

A senior Syrian government official on Saturday rejected the report, saying many amateur videos were suspect. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make official statements to the media.

The fighting in Syria has killed some 70,000 people and displaced 4 million of the country's 22 million people, according to U.N. estimates.

The conflict remains deadlocked, despite recent military gains by the rebels.
In new violence, rebels detonated a powerful car bomb with more than two tons of explosives outside a high-rise building in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, setting off clashes with regime troops, state TV and activists said.

On Saturday, rebels in Deir el-Zour detonated a car rigged with more than two tons of explosives next to the tallest building in the city, known as the Insurance Building, state TV said.

State TV says rebels entered the building after the blast but were pushed out by government forces. No casualties were reported in the blast, but the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four fighters were killed in subsequent clashes with regime troops.

Regime forces also shelled several areas of the city, the activist group said.
In an amateur video said to be showing Deir el-Zour, heavy gunfire was heard in the background and a cloud of smoke was visible.

The blast came a day after Syrians marked the second anniversary of the start of their uprising against President Bashar Assad. The rebellion began with largely peaceful protests, but when the regime cracked down on demonstrators, the unrest evolved into an insurgency and then a civil war.

In recent months, the Assad regime has escalated airstrikes and artillery attacks on rebel-held areas in the north and east of the country, rights groups have said.
The Observatory also said at least 12 rebel fighters were killed in clashes near a cement factory in the northern city of Aleppo, and five people were killed when a shell exploded in the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun.

Also Saturday, the head of Syria's leading opposition group issued an anniversary message to Syrians, saying that the uprising has "has taken a long time."
The opposition recognizes March 15, 2011 as the start of the uprising.
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Mouaz al-Khatib, head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, congratulated the town of Yabrud, north of Damascus, for creating a civil council to run its affairs.

"Our people are great, our people are civilized and they don't need gangs to rule them," al-Khatib said, sitting in front of a Syrian flag and cracking a rare smile. "They just need to breathe a little bit of the air of freedom and they'll create as they have created in all places."

All videos appeared authentic and corresponded with other reporting by The Associated Press.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

__________________________________________________ _________

here is the cover story they ran when the rumors re: bandar got really high:


Bandar still alive, insiders say
Brent Gardner-Smith
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Friday, August 24, 2012

ASPEN — Prince Bandar bin Sultan, chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency and still an Aspen property owner, is apparently alive and well despite rumors in early August that he had been assassinated in an explosion.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department on Wednesday said recent stories reporting that Bandar, 63, had been killed were not true.

David Ottaway, who retired from the Washington Post in 2006 after 30 years of covering Saudi Arabia, also says the stories were false.

“If Bandar had died, the government would have announced it,” Ottaway said. “It would not be possible to hide such a death, even in Saudi Arabia. I do not believe he has died, but I have not seen him in public since he took his new job.”

Ottaway is the author of the 2008 book “The King's Messenger: Prince Bandar bin Sultan and America's Tangled Relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

“The Iranians are constantly putting out stories through their agents of some mishap about Bandar that have been all false so far,” Ottaway wrote Thursday in response to an email query.

Additionally, David Ignatius, a veteran foreign-affairs columnist with the Washington Post, reported on Aug. 5 that the rumors of Bandar's death were false.

This week, Ignatius confirmed that his source on Bandar was solid.

“Yes, before I wrote my piece on Aug. 5, I talked with a source who confirmed, based on personal knowledge, Prince Bandar had been in regular phone contact with foreign officials that week to discuss intelligence matters,” Ignatius wrote in response to an email query.

Further evidence of Bandar's continued existence also came on Aug. 14, when the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that noted that Bandar was in attendance at the Islamic Solidarity Summit being held in Mecca.

And on Aug. 15, the Qatar News Agency reported that Bandar had escorted the emir of Qatar to the airport in Jeddah after the first day of the summit.

Bandar, who served as Saudi ambassador to the U.S. from 1983 to 2005, built a lavish estate in Aspen in 1991.

In June, he sold his main home and another nearby residence in the Starwood neighborhood to hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson for $49 million. In 2007, Bandar sold another Starwood home for $36 million.

But Bandar owned four homes in Starwood, and he still owns a relatively modest 5,200-square-foot home valued at $5.2 million by the Pitkin County assessor.

The home is listed as being owned by Bricol NV, an entity controlled by Bandar and managed by attorney William Jordan III, who did not respond to a request for comment.

After several years of keeping a low profile, Bandar suddenly made international headlines in the past five weeks and became the subject of wide speculation, perhaps as the result of a deliberate misinformation campaign.

The tale starts on July 18, when a suicide bomber was able to detonate an explosion at Syria's National Security Headquarters in Damascus, killing the Syrian defense minister and the deputy defense minister, who was also President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law. The Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility.

The next day, July 19, Bandar, already secretary general of the Saudi National Security Council, also was named chief of intelligence by King Abdullah.

That prompted speculation by some media outlets that Bandar's additional intelligence role was a reward for the Syrian bombing. The Saudis have urged military intervention in the Syrian conflict against the Assad regime.

On July 22, Iran's English-language Press TV ran a story headlined “Blast hits Saudi intelligence building, killing deputy spy chief.”

The Press TV story said Bandar's deputy had been killed. The Iranian story said that Yemen's al-Fajr Press had quoted eyewitnesses to the bombing, which has not been reported in the Western media.

On July 29, the website of the Voltaire Network, a pro-Syrian nonprofit organization, upped the ante and ran a story headlined “Syria reportedly eliminated Bandar bin Sultan in retaliation for Damascus bombing.”

“Though not yet announced by the Saudi authorities, the death of Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been confirmed to Voltaire Network by unofficial sources,” the story claimed.

The next day, the Voltaire Network appeared to walk the story back a notch.

“Strangely, Saudi authorities have not responded to inquiries by the media, refusing to confirm or deny the death of their newly appointed chief of the intelligence services. Clearly, regardless of whether the prince is dead or alive, such muteness denotes a serious disarray within the Saudi royal family,” an article stated.

But by then, the rumor of Bandar's death was off to the races.

On July 31, The International Business Times News ran a story with the headline “Prince Bandar bin Sultan: Is the Saudi spy chief dead or alive?”

The same day, Iran's Press TV ran a report titled “Saudi spy chief Prince Bandar assassinated, report says” and cited the Voltaire Network as the source.

The managing editor of The Aspen Times noticed the stories and ran a short column on Aug. 1 labeled “commentary” about the rumors of Bandar's death.

The next day, the Times published a second commentary on the “Bandar mystery,” admitting the paper was “utterly clueless on this one.”

Iran's Press TV saw the Times commentaries, and an Iranian television host noted during an interview on Aug. 4 that “We've also got the local paper in Aspen, Colo., wondering what is the fate of one of their famous residents, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, who owns a condo in Aspen, who hasn't been seen for the last week or two. There are reports that he succumbed to an attack on his headquarters.”

But the same day, some push-back on the rumor came from Saudi Arabia.

A piece by Ali Bluwi in Arab News — said to be aligned with the Saudi royal family — denounced the rumors of Bandar's death Aug. 4 as “Iranian and Syrian propaganda.”

The article said the source of the rumors was the man behind the Voltaire Network, Thierry Meyssan.

“Usually there is a lot of fabricated news about personalities of Bandar's caliber, and that has been the case now,” the article stated.

The next day, the Voltaire Network acknowledged the Aug. 4 story in Arab News.

“Taking note of the information relayed by Arab News on the activities of Prince Bandar, Voltaire Network wishes him a speedy recovery and expressed the hope that no formal commitments will crop up to interfere with his convalescence,” a story on Voltairenet.org said.

Also on Aug. 5, Post columnist Ignatius wrote that the rumor of Bandar's death “was rebutted Friday by a source who said that Bandar had been in telephone contact with non-Saudis.”

Then came the official statements from the Saudi and Qatar governments placing Bandar in Mecca and Jeddah in mid-August.

Since then, the speculation about Bandar's death has quieted, but there have been no stories confirming that he is, in fact, alive.

Wednesday's statement from a State Department spokesperson appears to be the first acknowledgment from a U.S. official that the reports earlier this month of Bandar's death were in fact false.

Aspen Journalism is an independent nonprofit news organization. More at www.aspenjournalism.org.


to those who caught the bit in red about rebels detonating a truck full of explosives next to the Insurance Building, LOL they can't even knock their own buildings down and Americans still think Osama knocked ours down.