A Syrian attorney general has appeared on video declaring his resignation to protest President Bashar Assad's crackdown on a 5-month-old uprising, saying security forces killed hundreds of people in the restive city of Hama and arrested thousands of "peaceful protesters."
The video of Adnan Bakkour, attorney general for the central Hama province, appeared to show a high-ranking defection from the embattled regime. The state-run news agency said Thursday that "terrorists" had kidnapped Bakkour and forced him to make the recording, although Bakkour denied that in a second video.
In the first video, Bakkour says security forces killed 72 prisoners on July 31 and another 420 people during a military siege on Hama, the main city in the province of the same name, in August. He said Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar directed the offensive and said Syrian officials instructed him to blame gangs and gunmen for the killings.
"I am resigning from my position in Assad's regime and his gang," Bakkour said in the first video, looking composed in a light suit and tie, and reading from a sheets of white paper. In the second video, Bakkour denied he had been kidnapped and said he would give more details when he fled Syria soon.
"I am under the protection of the rebels and the people," he said. Both videos were posted online late Wednesday as security forces raided homes and made arrests in Hama.
Hama, a city of 800,000 people about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of the capital, Damascus, was the scene of a massacre by Assad's late father and predecessor.
In 1982, Hafez Assad ordered the military to quell a rebellion by Syrian members of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood movement. Hama was sealed off and bombs dropped from above smashed swaths of the city and killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people, rights groups say.
The real number may never be known. Then, as now, reporters were not allowed to reach the area.
The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the Bakkour videos. Syria has banned foreign journalists and restricted local coverage, making it difficult to independently confirm events on the ground.
The United Nations estimates that 2,200 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests that erupted in mid-March. Amnesty International said this week that it believes at least 88 people, 10 of them children, have died in detention in Syria during the past five months.
The crackdown has led to international criticism and sanctions. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that Assad has "done the irreparable." France and its allies want the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo and other sanctions on the Syrian regime and its supporters, but ally Russia is reluctant to go so far.
The unrest in Syria shows no sign of abating. Protesters pour into the streets every week, despite the near certainty of meeting a barrage of shells and sniper fire. But the regime is in no imminent danger of collapse, setting the stage for what could be a drawn-out and bloody stalemate.