Syria’s Defense Minister, General Daoud Rajha Killed By Suicide Bomber At National Security HQ in Damascus
Syria’s defense minister General Daoud Rajha was killed in Wednesday’s suicide bomb attack on the National Security headquarters in Damascus, state TV said.
Security officials told AFP that several other participants in a top-level meeting were wounded in the blast and taken to al-Shami hospital in the capital for treatment.
“A suicide attack has targeted the National Security building,” the channel said of the security apparatus headed by Hisham Ikhtiar. The building is a heavily guarded headquarters in the city’s central Rawda district.
“The terrorist explosion which targeted the national security building in Damascus occurred during a meeting of ministers and a number of heads of (security) agencies,” the television said.
The television said that the bombing had wounded people attending the ministers’ meeting, some of them are in critical conditions.
Activists, meanwhile, said republican guard troops seal off Shami hospital in Damascus after ambulances brought casualties from explosion site.
Fighting erupts near presidential palace
In a related story, the revolt against Assad’s regime came within sight of his presidential palace on Wednesday as fighting erupted in major Damascus neighborhoods for a fourth day.
An army barracks near the “palace of the people,” a huge Soviet style complex overlooking the sprawling capital from the western district of Dummar, came under rebel fire around 7.30 a.m. (0430 GMT), activists and a resident said.
“I could hear the sound of small arms fire and explosions are getting louder and louder from the direction of the barracks,” Yasmine, who works as an architect, said by phone from Dummar.
Video footage broadcast by activists purportedly showed fire in the barracks overnight as a result of an attack by mortar rounds, but residents who saw the fire said they had not heard explosions to indicate it was a result of an attack.
Dummar is a secure area containing many auxiliary installations for the presidential palace and the barracks is just hundreds of meters from the palace itself.
Fighting also erupted overnight in the southern neighborhoods of Asali and Qadam, and Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun – mainly Sunni Muslim districts housing Damascenes and Palestinian refugees.
Assad and the ruling elite belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that has dominated power in Syria since a 1963 coup.
Government troops used heavy machineguns and anti-aircraft guns against rebels moving deep in residential neighborhoods, armed mostly with small arms and rocket propelled grenades.
Rebels directed their fire overnight at a large state facility turned headquarters for pro-Assad militia, known as shabbiha, drawn mainly from Alawite enclaves in nearby hills.
Army tanks and anti-aircraft guns, used as an infantry weapon, took positions in the northern neighborhood of Barzeh, where hundreds of families from the neighbouring district of Qaboun are seeking shelter.
“Anti-aircraft guns are firing at Qaboun from Barzeh. There are lots of families in the streets with no place to stay. They came from Qaboun and from the outskirts of Barzeh,” said Bassem, one of the activists, speaking by phone from Barzeh.
In the central neighborhood of Midan tanks and infantry fighting vehicles known as BDMs took positions in main thoroughfares and sporadic fighting was reported.
“Armor have not been able to enter the alleyways and old streets of Midan. The neighborhoods old Zahra and the old area near Majed mosque are in the hands of the rebels,” said Abu Mazen, an activist in the district.