Thursday, July 19, 2012

Glamorous wife of Syrian president flees

The British-born wife of Syria's embattled president Bashar al-Assad has fled to Russia after rebels killed three of his top security chiefs in a devastating suicide bomb attack, it was claimed today.
Rumours of Asma Assad's departure swirled around the capital Damascus within hours of the blast, which claimed the lives of the president's brother-in-law and other top officials.

The president himself was believed to be in the coastal city of Latakia, directing a response to yesterday's attack as violence between rebels and pro-government forces intensified in the capital.

There were signs today that the 16-month uprising had reached a potentially pivotal stage, with rebel assassins reaching Assad's inner circle for the first time and soldiers apparently defecting en masse.

More than 200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence across the country yesterday, including 38 in Damascus where armed rebels are pressing an all-out offensive, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Anti-regime activists said today that government forces had begun shelling neighbourhoods in and around the capital in response to the suicide bomb attack.

Russia, which has supported Assad, said a 'decisive battle' had begun in Syria but supporting the opposition was a 'dead-end policy'.

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, added: 'Assad will not go on his own and our western partners don’t know what to do about that.'

Loud explosions, gunfire and attacks by helicopters were heard in Damascus yesterday, and it was suggested that troops had been issued with gas masks, raising fears that chemical weapons could be used.

Earlier, Syrian state television confirmed the deaths of Assef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law and the deputy head of the armed forces, as well as defence minister Dawoud Rahja and crisis management chief Hassan Turkmani.

Shawkat, who was married to Assad's sister Bushra, was one of the most feared members of the president's inner circle.

Other leading government figures were wounded when the bomb exploded during a meeting of ministers and security officials at a national security building in Damascus.

No comments: