Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Suicide blast wounds Government: The Defeat of Syria?
Highlights: Syrian defense minister killed in suicide bomber attack, Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat were wounded, The brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al Assad and his defence minister are among several senior officials killed in a Damascus bomb attack. Sixty troops die as rebels press Damascus offensive, 2 more high ranking Generals defect over night along with 600 more Syrians.
Syrian defense minister killed in suicide bomber attack : A suicide bomber struck the National Security building in the Syrian capital Wednesday, killing the defense minister and wounding other senior officials in a brazen attack on the seat of government power, state-run TV said. Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, 65, is the most senior government official to be killed in the Syrian civil war as rebels battle to oust President Bashar Assad.
Rajha, a former army general, was the most senior Christian government official in Syria. Assad appointed him to the post last year. His death will resonate with Syria's minority Christian population, who make up about 10 percent of Syria's population and have generally stood by the regime. Christians say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence sweeping the country of 22 million people, and they are fearful that Syria will become another Iraq, with Christians caught in the crossfire between rival Muslim groups.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat were wounded in a Damascus explosion on Wednesday, Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned al-Manar television said.
The brother-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al Assad and his defence minister are among several senior officials killed in a Damascus bomb attack.Assef Shawkat and defence chief Daoud Rajha were killed in an explosion at a meeting of senior security and government figures in the capital. Syrian General Hassan Turkmani, a former defence minister and senior military official, also died in the blast.
The attack is by far the most serious on the president's inner circle and some analysts believe it marks the "beginning of the end" for the Assad regime. There were conflicting reports about whether the bomb was a suicide device or had been planted in a meeting room prior to the explosion. Some sources said a bodyguard employed by the regime's elite was carrying the device on a belt around his waist.
Even as state media reported the suicide attack in Damascus — a notion that would once have been unthinkable in decades of iron-fisted control by the Assad family — the country’s Russian-armed military was reported to have suffered further defections among its top ranks, with two brigadier generals among 600 Syrians who fled to Turkey overnight, Reuters reported.
Their action brought to 20 the number of such high-ranking figures, who include a onetime close associate of Mr. Assad, Gen. Manaf Tlass, the son of a former defense minister.
Sixty troops die as rebels press Damascus offensive: Columns of black smoke rose over the capital on Wednesday as the Local Coordination Committees, which organises anti-regime protests on the ground, reporting fighting in several districts.The Qaboon neighbourhood was bombarded during the night and pounded again on Wednesday morning, the LCC said, as was Barzeh neighbourhood, and sustained gunfire was heard. It also said there was less traffic than normal in the city where fighting has raged since Sunday, with the rebels announcing a full-scale offensive dubbed “the Damascus volcano and earthquakes of Syria.”
Regime forces and the FSA — defected soldiers and civilians who have taken up arms — clashed at dawn in the Al-Midan and Zahira districts of Damascus as well as at Assali south of the city, the LCC said. Rebel forces on Tuesday said the battle to “liberate” Damascus had begun, as heavy fighting raged across the city with the regime using helicopter gunships in the capital for the first time. As the fighting inched closer to the regime’s nerve centre, FSA spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said “victory is nigh” and the struggle would go on until the city was conquered.