A deadly attack rocked a high level meeting at the National Security Building in Damascus this morning, killing defence Minister Dawoud Rajha and General Assef Shawkat, the deputy defence minister and Bashar Assad’s brother in law.
According to Reuters, the two men were at the centre of a military crisis group tasked with crushing the rebellion.
Reports differ on the details of the attack. Reuters reports that a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle carried out a suicide bombing. The leader of the Free Syrian Army Riad Al-Asaad claimed, in a phone interview with AP, that it was not a suicide attack and that his group had planted a bomb in the room.
An Islamist rebel group called Liwa Al Islam, or “the Brigade of Islam” claimed responsibility as well, telling Reuters that it had planted explosives in the building as part of a month long plot.
Al Arabiya reports that Colonel Hafez Makhlouf, Bashar Al-Assad’s cousin and a member of his inner circle has been killed as well, citing an anonymous source. That headline has appeared on its website, and has been tweeted through its official twitter handle @AlArabiya_BRK:
مصادر للعربية: مقتل حافظ مخلوف رئيس فرع التحقيق في المخابرات العامة
— Al Arabiya Breaking (@AlArabiya_Brk) July 18, 2012
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