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Syrian State Media Says Defense Minister Killed in Suicide Bombing

Syrian State Media Says Defense Minister Killed in Suicide Bombing

Syrian rebels say they planted bombs inside meeting room; 3 top aides to Assad killed

By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Debbi Wilgoren and Liz Sly, Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 11:00 AM

BEIRUT —A bombing in Damascus on Wednesday killed at least three key members of President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle, a devastating strike that came hours before a U.N. Security Council debate on the Syria conflict and added to mounting evidence that Assad’s security forces may be losing control of the capital.

The rebel Free Syrian Army said its loyalists planted bombs inside a room where the government’s central command unit for crisis management — a special cell comprised of about a dozen of the country’s top security chiefs — was to meet to discuss efforts to crush the 16-month-old uprising.

The bombs were detonated remotely from outside the building once the meeting was underway, said Col. Malik Kurdi, the rebel group’s deputy commander. “The Free Syrian Army carried out this attack in retaliation for the massacres committed by the regime and because of the international silence,” Kurdi said. “We promised that we are going to hit the regime in its most sensitive axis. This was necessary for us.”

Killed were Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, who also held the title of deputy prime minister; his deputy, Asef Shawkat, a former chief of military intelligence who was married to Assad’s sister; and Hassan Turkmani, the head of the security cell and a former minister of defense.


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