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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Assad forces burn Damascus home of Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman who defected

Assad forces burn al-Maqdisi home in Damascus
05/12/2012 By Asharq Al-Awsat
http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=1&id=32062

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Sources close to “former” Syrian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Jihad al-Maqdisi informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the senior Syrian
official had been speaking about leaving Syria for a long period of time,
but he was waiting to ensure the safety of his family before taking any
action. The sources claimed that al-Maqdisi was able to transfer his family,
including his parents, to Beirut and from there to London, before he himself
fled the country. The sources added that al-Maqdisi would most likely hold a
press conference in the coming days to officially announce his defection
from the al-Assad regime.

It appears that al-Maqdisi was right to ensure his family’s safety before
fleeing Syria, for the al-Assad regime’s response to his defection has been
quick and brutal. Opposition sources revealed that Syrian regime forces had
burnt al-Maqdisi’s home to the ground on Monday night following news of his
defection. The press office of the opposition Syrian Military Council
confirmed this news, saying “regime forces set fire to the home of the
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman located in Damascus’s upscale al-Mezza
district.”

For its part, Britani’s Guardian newspaper initially quoted “usually
reliable diplomatic sources” who claimed that al-Maqdisi is “en route for –
or already in – the US after managing to leave the capital, Damascus, for
Beirut.” In Washington, a US State Department spokesman said “we are not in
a position to confirm his actions or whereabouts.” However the newspaper
later quoted Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, Chris
Doyle, who reported that al-Maqdisi was in London and being debriefed by UK
officials.

Al-Maqdisi was appointed spokesman for Syria’s Foreign Ministry shortly
after the uprising against the al-Assad regime erupted in March 2011. Prior
to this, he worked at the Syrian Embassy in London. Al-Maqdisi is fluent in
English and a communications professional. In his tenure as Syrian Foreign
Ministry spokesman, al-Maqdisi strongly supported the al-Assad regime,
including in the wake of several massacres. When government forces were
blamed for the deaths of some 103 people, including 49 children, in an
incident known as the Houleh massacre, last May, al-Maqdisi dismissed this
as a “tsunami of lies.”

Al-Maqdisi is a member of Syria’s Christian minority, which has largely
backed the al-Assad regime. He had previously been viewed as something of a
“hero” to al-Assad regime loyalists, being crowned with numerous
affectionate titles such as “the regime’s man” and even “al-Assad’s James
Bond”. However following news of his defection, al-Maqdisi has been
dismissed as a traitor and foreign agent.

The precise details surrounding al-Maqdisi’s defection – or fleeing of
Syria – remain unclear. In fact, Lebanon’s al-Manar TV – quoting Syrian
government sources – claimed that al-Maqdisi had been sacked by the al-Assad
regime for making statements that did not reflect the government’s position.
Controversy erupted in July when al-Maqdisi issued a statement saying that
Syria was not going to use its chemical weapons, thereby tacitly admitting
that Syria was in possession of such arms.

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