Rebel bombing strikes heart of Syrian regime

Rebel bombing strikes heart of Syrian regime
# 18 July 2012 17:16 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A bomb ripped through a high-level security meeting Wednesday in Damascus, killing three top regime officials — including President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law — in the harshest blow to Syria’s ruling family dynasty and the rebels’ boldest attack in the country’s civil war, APA reports quoting Associated Press.

Syrian state-run TV said the blast came during a meeting of Cabinet ministers and senior security officials in Damascus, which has seen four straight days of clashes between rebels and government troops.

The high-level assassinations could signal a turning point in the civil war as the violence becomes increasingly chaotic.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the bombing showed that the bloodshed in Syria was "rapidly spinning out of control," and it was time for the international community to bring "maximum pressure" on Assad to step down and permit a stable transfer of power.

The Assad family has ruled Syria for four decades, creating an ironclad and impenetrable regime. Wednesday’s attack was an unheard-of strike on the inner circle.

Syria’s rebel commander, Riad al-Asaad, said his forces carried out the attack.

Although state-run TV said it was a suicide blast, al-Asaad said his rebel forces planted a bomb in the room and detonated it. All those involved in carrying out the attack are safe, he said.

"God willing, this is the beginning of the end of the regime," al-Asaad told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his base in neighboring Turkey.

"Hopefully Bashar will be next," he added.

State-run TV confirmed the deaths of two officials: Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, 65, a former army general and the most senior government official to be killed in the rebels’ battle to oust Assad; and Gen. Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister and one of the most feared figures in Assad’s inner circle. He is married to Assad’s elder sister, Bushra.

An authority with direct knowledge of the situation said Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister, also was killed. The authority asked that his name and profession not be used for fear of reprisals.

Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar was wounded and in stable condition, state-run TV said.

It was not immediately clear where Assad was; he gave no immediate statements on the attacks, although in the hours after the assassination, Syria’s state-run TV said a decree from Assad named Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij as the new defense minister. Al-Freij used to be the army chief of staff.

Republican Guard troops surrounded the nearby al-Shami Hospital, where some officials were taken for treatment, witnesses said.
#
#

THE OPERATION IS BEING PERFORMED