Defected Assad confidant visiting Turkey

July 26, 2012
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In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, a Syrian citizen journalist documents Syrian forces shelling in Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS CITIZEN JOURNALIST IMAGE

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey says the brigadier general who defected from the Syrian regime is on a visit to Ankara.

A Foreign Ministry statement did not specify if Manaf Tlass had yet landed in Turkey but said Turkish officials were hosting him Thursday night for a special dinner during Ramadan, the Muslim holy fasting month.

Tlass was a commander in the powerful Republican Guard and a close friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He is the most prominent person to defect from the Syrian regime as it has cracked down over the past 16 months on an increasingly armed opposition movement — a conflict that has left thousands dead and spiraled into civil war.

Tlass defected in early July and flew to Paris. He has also recently been in Saudi Arabia.