Report: Top Syrian Officer, a Close Friend of Assad, Defects and Flees to Turkey

Manaf Tlass, son of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, fled Syria two days ago.

Manaf Tlass, the son of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and once a close friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has defected from the army and fled to Turkey, Al-Arabiya reported on Thursday.

Manaf Tlass is a commander of an elite unit in the Syrian army. Mustafa Tlass, his father, was a close friend of Bashar Assad's father, Hafez Assad, and served as his minister of defense and right-hand man for decades, despite being a member of a Sunni family. Despite this, Tlass was the subject of derision over the years due to his inability to make significant decision in the security field – these decisions were entrusted to Alawite officers.

According to reports in Arab media outlets, Tlass defected from the Syrian army two days ago.

A source in the Syrian defense establishment confirmed the report, and claimed that Tlass fled after he discovered that the Syrian intelligence services found out that he is a member of the opposition and rebel forces.

According to the source, Syrian intelligence was tracking him for an extended period of time and had gathered intelligence on his activities. The source said that Tlass fled after he understood that he would probably be arrested by Assad's security forces. The Syrian source underplayed the importance of the incident, saying that it looked like Tlass understood that the Assad regime had the upper hand.

Earlier this week, it was reported that 85 soldiers from Assad's army defected, including a general and 14 officers. The defectors fled to a refugee camp in Turkey, and joined some 2,000 soldiers who have defected from the Syrian army so far.

Earlier on Thursday, the WikiLeaks website began publishing what it said were millions of documents linked to the inner workings of the Assad's regime. According to a statement released by WikiLeaks, the more than 2.4 million files are derived "from 680 Syria-related entities or domain names, including those of the Ministries of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Information, Transport and Culture."

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