Middle East

MELISSA BLOCK, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel.

A statement has been posted on YouTube that appears to signal a high-profile defection from the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The attorney general of the embattled city of Hama has resigned, and he claims to have detailed information about the deaths of scores of anti-government protesters, all killed on a single day.

As NPR's Kelly McEvers reports, the statement is one of the most detailed accounts of the government crackdown since the Syrian uprising began in March.

KELLY MCEVERS: In the video, Adnan Mohammad al-Bakkour wears a light blue sport coat and sits behind a desk.

ADNAN MOHAMMAD AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: He says he has information that 72 anti-government protesters were killed in detention on July 31st. That was the first day of the so-called Ramadan offensive in Hama, when troops and tanks rolled into a city that had been a center of protest. Bakkour says he also knows about more than 400 protesters who were killed by security forces and left in mass graves in public parks. He says he was asked to prepare a report saying the victims were killed by armed gangs.

AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: He says thousands of protesters have been detained, hundreds of these have been tortured. And he says the army destroyed homes in Hama while people were still inside. Then, in perhaps the most shocking segment of the video, he names names.

AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: The minister of interior and various officers in the military and intelligence agencies, men he says are directly responsible for the deaths. He says he'll provide documents and witnesses at a later time.

The entire statement lasts only a couple of minutes. It ends with a warning: Never think that God is oblivious to what the unjust are doing.

AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Shortly after the video emerged, Syrian state TV broadcast a story saying Bakkour had actually been kidnapped by terrorists and forced to make the statement at gunpoint. The state media cited Bakkour's driver and bodyguard. The driver said Bakkour's car was surrounded by seven men armed with Kalashnikov rifles. He said he tried to make an emergency phone call at the time, but the network was busy and he couldn't get through.

Bakkour then issued another video statement. It was first broadcast on the Saudi-owned TV network Al Arabiya. Bakkour wears the same sport coat - this time with no tie.

AL-BAKKOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: I quit my post in protest of the savage behavior of the regime toward peaceful protesters, he says. The Syrian state TV version is devoid of truth. I am under the protection of the revolutionaries, he says. I will give live statements as soon as I am outside the country.

Activists say Bakkour is seeking ways to be smuggled out of Syria. They say the crackdown in Hama has only intensified, as authorities go door to door, looking for him.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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