AMMAN, Jordan — Syria’s prime minister completed his defection by crossing into Jordan at dawn Wednesday after two days of hiding inside his homeland, according to Jordanian officials and a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army.
FSA spokesman Ahmed Kassem, who told The Associated Press on Monday that Hijab had defected, said Wednesday that he had actually been inside Syrian territory for the past two days waiting to cross. He said the rebels’ earlier statements to reporters were meant to “confuse the Syrian regime over the prime minister’s whereabouts.”
“Indeed, we pulled off the trick and luckily it worked,” Kassem said in a telephone interview from his base in Turkey, which supports the rebels in the Syrian civil war.
It was not immediately possible to confirm this account independently.
Jordanian officials, who on Monday gave conflicting accounts of whether Hijab had already crossed the border, now say that the defection took place early Wednesday.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to talk to the media, said the FSA had notified Jordanian authorities that the defecting prime minister was on his way to the kingdom. He declined to say when.
“We coordinated closely to ensure his safe arrival,” said the security official.
Kassem said Hijab crossed with 35 family members, including his wife and children, his seven brothers and two sisters and their families. He said they were assisted by 400 trained FSA fighters, some of whom were Syrian army and police defectors.
He said the new route was rarely used before and differed from the usual path for smuggling Syrian refugees into Jordan. That passageway, which cuts across olive groves, has recently seen Syrian gunfire on fleeing refugees. On July 28, a Syrian army sniper shot and killed a 6-year-old boy as he and his family tried to escape to Jordan.
Kassem said the Hijab and his family were driven in batches for about six kilometers (four miles) from the southern Syrian village of Nueimeh to the Nassib border post. Then he walked for 200 meters (yards) to the Jordanian border village of Sweilmeh.
The Jordanian security official said border guards were expecting him.