Entries in Defectors (4)


Another Top Syrian Diplomat Defects

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- The Syrian government suffered another major diplomatic setback on Monday with the defection of its top envoy to Britain.

In a statement, Britain's foreign office said that Khaled al-Ayoubi, the chargé d’affaires at the Syrian embassy in London, "is no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people, and is therefore unable to continue in his position."

While losing al-Ayoubi certainly won't affect the ground war the Syrian government has waged against opposition forces over the past 17 months, it again shows the deteriorating state of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, once believed to be impervious to any internal strife.

The defections have been picking up steam as of late, with senior military figure Manaf Tlass refusing to remain part of al-Assad's government, along with the former ambassadors to Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.

Syria has become increasingly isolated even as the international community has resisted providing military support for al-Assad's enemies.  Russia and China remain Damascus' closest allies but wary of al-Assad taking extreme steps against his own people, including the use of chemical weapons.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dozens of Syrian Soldiers Defect

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The 16-month conflict between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces shows no signs of ending anytime soon, but 85 members of Syria’s military have apparently had enough.

Turkish state TV reported on Monday that 85 Syrian soldiers, including a general, have defected from the Syrian Army and fled into Turkey. 

Other Syrian soldiers have defected in the past, but the size of Monday’s group indicates there is growing uneasiness about the Syrian military’s efforts against anti-government forces.

The conflict has claimed more than 15,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High-Ranking Syrian Military Officers Defect to Turkey

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Turkey is still furious with Syria for shooting down one of its fighter jets last Friday, but it is more than glad to accept Syrian military defectors.

In the latest sign that there's trouble within the ranks, a Syrian general, two colonels, two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers have sought asylum in Turkey, according to state TV there.

Another report says that many of the soldiers brought family members with them, making at least 224 people who are looking to escape the violence in their country.

Until now, most military members who have left Syria have been low-level defectors.

The current group was brought to a refugee camp in the Turkish province of Hatay.  All told, there are an estimated 33,000 Syrians now living in Turkey, who have fled the 16-month-long government crackdown that one group claims has cost more than 15,000 lives.

Meanwhile, Turkey awaits a response from NATO members meeting in Brussels on Tuesday about the downing of a F-4 plane in which two pilots were lost.  Ankara claims Syria shot down the aircraft over international waters without provocation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


North Korean Defector Threatened over His Reliable News Reports YORK) -- One of the most difficult places in the world to get accurate information, both for journalists and intelligence officers, is the closed and paranoid regime of North Korea.  Former North Korean intelligence official Jang Jin-Seong, who defected to the South, now runs a news site with seemingly reliable information about North Korea, and it could cost him his life.

Journalists are rarely allowed into the reclusive country, and defectors often demand money for information and stories that are frequently embellished to make them more attractive and valuable to news agencies bidding on them (ABC News has a policy of not paying for news). 

A new wave of so-called news websites, operated by North Korean defectors or South Koreans who are politically pro-North Korea, have sprung up around the Internet, pushing stories through portal sites that are later cited by major newspapers and television networks. Sensational stories, for example, on the late Kim Jong Il’s mistresses or exotic herbal medicines that kept him alive for years have become popular for Facebook posts and retweets on Twitter.  The more shocking the story, the better chance it has to run up the chain of news outlets and end up on the evening news.

But Jang Jin-Seong's website is unique, carrying stories on North Korea with surprisingly solid information.  Jin-Seong's stories use Google satellite images and quote North Korean officials who often travel to China.

“Our priority is credibility. We’ve made a point not to report unless we have verifiable information even if the story comes late,” said Jang Jin-Seong, 40, who runs the "New Focus" website. “We are very aware of lots of phony North Korea specialized websites out there.”

Jang escaped the North in 2004 after working in the Communist party’s intelligence agency. His job was to analyze South Korean society and come up with strategies to spread communist propaganda in the South. After defecting to the South, he worked the other way around taking a post in the National Intelligence Service analyzing the North.

He quit last year and started New Focus last February with two other defectors he describes as “former Pyongyang elites” and four South Korean reporters. Their consultants include computer specialists who are capable of hacking and a network of North Koreans “who are empathetic of North Korea’s dire situation and who believe their information to New Focus would help the plight of the poverty stricken nation’s future to a better off society,” Jang said.

Asked whether he manages to keep these North Korean officials to stay in the loop with financial compensation, he acknowledged that is necessary.

Jang’s major project, now almost complete, is to draw up a concise map of the North’s important locations using Google technology.

“We note where Kim Jong Il’s many state houses are, where their generals live, and where the party keeps confidential personnel or resources,” said Jang. For the first time, they have also completed the map of Pyongyang’s subway system, thanks to Google satellite.

Jang, though, fears for his life. One North Korean website that carries state news has called Jang “human waste,” a “pathetic clown” and “a liar,” threatening that his “revelation of our major locations in Pyongyang and elsewhere” would lead to a tragic death.

Jang’s answer: “I take that as a compliment.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio