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Posted at 09:15 AM ET, 08/06/2012

High-profile defections in the Arab Spring

Updated 8/06/2012:

Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab defected to Jordan on Aug. 6, becoming the most senior official yet to quit the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Updated 7/12/2012:

Nawaf al-Fares, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, has defected and urged the army to “turn your guns on” President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Reuters reported.

A Syrian fighter pilot, Col. Hassan Hammadeh, “removed his air force tag and kneeled on the tarmac in prayer after landing his plane at King Hussein Air Base in Jordan” on Thursday, the AP reported:

The Post’s Liz Sly reports that this isn’t the first time a member of the Syrian military has defected, but it’s the first time a fighter jet was involved.

Here’s a look at some past defections to other countries by government and military personnel during the Arab Spring:
Libyan air force pilot Ali Al-Rabti is hugged by his son upon his arrival at Mitiga airport in Tripoli on Sept. 18, 2011. Two air force pilots who refused to bomb civilians during Muammar Gaddafi's rule and fled to Malta returned to Tripoli. (Suhaib Salem - Reuters)

In Syria, Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik became the highest-ranking officer to flee when he escaped to Turkey in January:

There have been others like him:

“In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected. In January, Imad Ghalioun, a member of Syria’s parliament, left the country to join the opposition, saying the Syrian people are suffering sweeping human rights violations,” according to Associated Press.

In Libya, defections occurred fairly regularly throughout 2011.

Two air force fighter pilots flew their jets to Malta in February of last year. They said they fled “after being ordered to bomb anti-government protesters in Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi,” Reuters reported.

Then, in March 2011, foreign minister Musa Kusa arrived at a small airport southwest of London. He was the most senior regime figure to abandon Moammar Gaddafi’s government, having been Libya’s intelligence chief for 15 years, The Post reported.

The following month, Shukri Ghanem, general secretary of the General People’s Committee of Libya and a member of Gaddafis’ inner circle, left Libya for Tunisia and then Europe, and afterward he announced his support for the rebels.

In August 2011, Libyan official Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah landed in Cairo in a private plane with family members in another apparent high-level defection.

The Post reported that at the time, he feared for his life.

View photos from Syria’s crackdown:

More world news coverage:

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- Karzai calls for government reform

- Faltering Iran talks stoke fear of new conflict

- Read more headlines from around the world

By  |  09:15 AM ET, 08/06/2012

Tags:  World

 
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