, DAMASCUS, Jul 18 – Syria’s defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law were both killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus on Wednesday that targeted National Security headquarters, state television said.
Defence minister General Daoud Rajha and deputy defence minister Assef Shawkat — two of Syria’s top security officials — were killed in the attack, the broadcaster said.
Security officials told AFP that several other participants attending a high-level meeting were wounded in the blast. A security source said the suicide attacker targeted the gathering with an explosives belt.
The officials said Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar was “badly wounded” and that the assistant to the vice-president, Hassan Turkmeni, was also injured.
The morning attack targeted the regime’s most senior security chiefs, state television said.
It happened in the high security Rawda district in the heart of the capital as battles between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raged in Damascus for the fourth consecutive day.
Rajha, a Christian, was defence minister, deputy army chief and deputy head of the Council of Ministers. Assad himself is overall commander of the military.
Shawkat was deputy defence minister and a former military intelligence chief.
The National Security branch — a linchpin of Syria’s security apparatus — is headed by General Hisham Ikhtiyar, who was also wounded in Wednesday’s blast.
In mid-May this year, a reported attempt was made to poison Rajha, Ikhtiyar, Shawkat, Turkmeni and other key regime figures. A delivery boy was said to have added mercury to their food during a meal before fleeing.