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Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law killed in Damascus suicide bombing

A suicide bombing targeted the national security headquarters in central Damascus with Syrian state TV reporting that Defence Minister General Daoud Rajha was also killed.

Damascus (File photo)
Damascus (File photo)
Image: Wikimedia Commons via Wikipedia

SYRIA’S DEFENCE MINISTER General Daoud Rajha and President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat were killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing targeting the National Security headquarters in central Damascus, state television reported.

Security officials told AFP that several other participants attending a high-level meeting were wounded in the blast and taken to Al-Shami hospital in the capital for treatment.

The officials said Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar was also among the wounded.

The morning attack targeted the regime’s most senior security chiefs, state television said, adding that some of the meeting’s participants were “badly wounded.”

The bombing came in the high security Rawda district in the heart of the capital as battles between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raged in Damascus for the fourth consecutive day.

Rajha, a Christian, was defence minister, deputy army chief and deputy head of the Council of Ministers. President Bashar al-Assad is overall commander of the military.

The National Security branch — a linchpin of Syria’s security apparatus — is headed by General Hisham Ikhtiyar. There was no immediate news of Ikhtiyar’s fate after the bombing.

Born in 1941, Ikhtiyar is a key figure in the regime’s repression of the 16-month revolt.

In mid-May this year, a reported attempt was made to poison Rajha, Ikhtiyar and other key regime figures. A delivery boy was said to have added mercury to their food during a meal before fleeing.

Assad’s army has said it will continue to fight terrorism following today’s attack. “The terrorist act increases the armed forces’ determination to cleanse the country of terrorist groups,” the military said in a statement.

‘Decisive battle’ taking place in Syria: Russia

Meanwhile, Russia said that a decisive battle was in progress in Syria as it rejected a Western-backed UN resolution on the crisis which it believes would mean taking sides with a revolutionary movement.

“A decisive battle is in progress in Syria. Adopting the resolution would mean outright support of a revolutionary movement,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in reference to the armed opposition to Assad.

“And if we are talking about a revolution then the United Nations has nothing to do with it,” Lavrov said on the sidelines of a Kremlin meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The UN Security Council is due to vote on a Western-backed resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter providing for sanctions against Damascus should it fail to withdraw military equipment from cities in 10 days.

The United States says it would only seek economic measures but Russia fears the West could later use other clauses under Chapter 7 that include the use of force should Assad fail to comply.

“We cannot accept Chapter 7 and the section about sanctions,” Lavrov told reporters.

Referring to the West he added: “Instead of trying to calm the opposition, some partners are pushing towards a further escalation.”

Asked by reporters if Syria was in civil war, Lavrov declined to use the term but said: “What do you think? There is an internal armed conflict, which means that well-armed citizens are fighting between themselves.”

“This policy focused on the opposition is going nowhere. Assad himself is not going and the Western partners do not know what to do with this and therefore there is this emotional reaction.”

- © AFP, 2012

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