Syrian official defects, says Assad has unlimited crackdown budget
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fight at all costs to crush the revolt seeking his ouster, a member of the Syrian Parliament who defected to Egypt said Tuesday.
“There is an open budget allocated to the crackdown on the popular uprising and revolution,” said Imad Ghalioun, who was a member of Parliament from the embattled city of Homs before he escaped to Egypt.
“There is no budget for the country but only money to serve the regime’s security forces and its ‘ghost hit men,’” he said, making a reference to snipers.
The uprising, which is seeking al-Assad’s resignation, reforms and democratic elections, is in its tenth month. It has prompted a bloody government crackdown that has claimed at least 5,000 lives since in began in March, according to the United Nations. Opposition groups put the toll at more than 6,000.
At least 28 people were killed across Syria Tuesday, including four soldiers who defected and two women, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees. The majority of the deaths were in the restive city of Homs, where 17 were killed, according to the group. Eight others were killed when a bomb destroyed a bus in Idlib. The group said government security forces planted the device. In addition, one person each died in a Damascus suburb, Daraa, and Hama.
The ongoing violence has sparked calls by Qatar’s ruler to send Arab troops into Syria, a move the al-Assad regime warned against Tuesday.
Citing an official source in the Foreign Ministry, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said the government would “confront any attempt to undermine Syria’s sovereignty.”
Al-Assad, who has characterized the anti-government protesters as “armed gangs,” has said his security forces are battling terrorists intent on targeting civilians and fomenting unrest.
But much of the international community holds al-Assad’s regime responsible for killing dissidents.