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Breaking newsThe Top 3 Syrian security officials assassinated by rebels

Published 18 July 2012

In the heaviest blow yet to the Assad regime, a bomb placed inside the fortress-like National Security headquarters in Damascus earlier today killed the three top commanders of the regime’s anti-insurgency effort: Defense Minster Dawoud Rajha; Deputy Defense Minister (and Assad’s brother-in-law) Assef Shawkat; and Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister who was serving as head of the regime’s central command unit for crisis management a secure room; the bomb was placed in the secure room, where a meeting of the central command unit for crisis management was taking place, by a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle; the assassination, and the way it was carried out, demonstrate daring, operational competence, and excellent intelligence; the operation reflects, more generally, a noticeable increase in the lethality and effectiveness of the rebel forces, and the growing vulnerability of the regime

In what must be regarded as the heaviest blow yet to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a powerful bomb planted inside a secure facility earlier today killed three key members of the Syrian president’s inner circle:

  • Defense Minster Dawoud Rajha
  • Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat (he was married to Assad’s elder sister Bushra) — Shawkat served as deputy head and then chief of military intelligence, then promoted to deputy defense minister, the position he held when he was killed today
  • and Hassan Turkmani, a former defense minister who was serving as head of the regime’s central command unit for crisis management. The unit comprises about a dozen of the country’s top security chiefs

The bomb was placed inside a secure room, located deep inside the fortress-like National Security headquarters, where the central command unit for crisis management was holding a meeting. The bomb was placed in the room by a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle, and detonated by a remote control device.

The assassination of Rajha, Shawkat, and Turkamni is not only symbolic: the three are described by NBC News as “the regime’s most senior operational commanders.”

The Syrian government acknowledged that others at the meeting were injured, but there was no confirmation that Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar was badly hurt and eventually died from his wounds.

Three hours after the assassination of the two, there were heavy explosions at the headquarters of the Syrian army’s fourth division in Damascus. The fourth division is led by Assad’s younger brother Maher, who is considered by observers to be the second most powerful man in Syria.

That the bomber was able to penetrate so deeply into the heart of the establishment could have a powerful effect on morale, not only within Assad’s cabinet but also across the ranks of the military and regime supporters who have thus far remained loyal,” the Washington Post notes.

“If you think of a string of pearls, this may be the decisive moment where the string has been cut and we just see the pearls start falling off,” Amr al-Azm, a professor of history at Ohio’s Shawnee State University who is also active in the Syrian opposition, told the Post. “Right now we are on the cusp. The regime might be able to contain it, or things might unravel completely. The next few hours are going to be critical.”

Analysis
The successful decapitation operation by the anti-Assad rebels is indicative of the rebels’ growing effectiveness. During