Syrian Opposition Kills Top Defense Officials in Bomb Attack

By:  Alex Newman
07/19/2012
       
Syrian Opposition Kills Top Defense Officials in Bomb Attack

A July 18 bombing in the Syrian capital of Damascus dealt the most powerful blow to the regime of Bashar al-Assad since the Western-backed armed uprising against his rule began more than a year ago. Syria’s Defense Minister, the dictator’s brother-in-law, and the chief of “crisis management” were killed in the attack, and other top officials were injured. Two separate groups — the establishment-backed opposition “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and an Islamist terror group dubbed the “Lord of the Martyrs Brigade” — both claimed responsibility for the attack.

A July 18 bombing in the Syrian capital of Damascus dealt the most powerful blow to the regime of Bashar al-Assad since the Western-backed armed uprising against his rule began more than a year ago. Syria’s Defense Minister, the dictator’s brother-in-law, and the chief of “crisis management” were killed in the attack, and other top officials were injured. Two separate groups — the establishment-backed opposition “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) and an Islamist terror group dubbed the “Lord of the Martyrs Brigade” — both claimed responsibility for the attack.

The deadly bombing came amid recent reports of raging battles between “revolutionary” forces and the Assad regime throughout the heart of Damascus, which had largely been spared from the brutal fighting occurring in other parts of Syria. Among the dead were defense chief Dawoud Rajhah — one of the few Christians in government throughout the entire Middle East — and Gen. Asef Shawkat, deputy defense boss and the husband of “President” Assad’s only sister. Former Defense Minister Gen. Hassan Turkmani, a top military official, also reportedly died later from injuries sustained in the attack.

News reports indicated that Syria’s intelligence boss Hisham Bekhtyar had suffered serious wounds but survived the attack and was in “stable” condition. Some unconfirmed reports also indicated that Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar had been wounded or even killed in the blast. But “security sources” cited by Reuters said that Assad himself was not present at the high-level meeting in the “national security” headquarters that came under attack.

After the bombing, the regime quickly regrouped and vowed to quash the foreign-backed fighters. "This cowardly terrorist act will not deter our men in the armed forces from continuing their sacred mission of pursuing the remnants of these armed terrorist criminal gangs," said newly installed Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, who served as the military’s chief of staff until assuming his new post in the wake of the bombing. "They will cut off the arm that extends to harm the security of the nation and the people."

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Photo of Damascus after July 18 bombing by opposition forces: AP Images

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