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Islamist group, Free Syrian Army claim Damascus attack

July 18, 2012
Latest Update: July 19, 2012 03:34 am

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Dawoud Rajha at a Syrian air defence live ammunitions exercise in an undisclosed location, in this undated handout photo distributed on July 9, 2012. — Reuters/Sana picDeputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Dawoud Rajha at a Syrian air defence live ammunitions exercise in an undisclosed location, in this undated handout photo distributed on July 9, 2012. — Reuters/Sana picBEIRUT, July 18 — Two groups claimed responsibility for the explosion in Damascus today that killed several top Syrian officials, including the defence minister and the president’s brother-in-law.

Assef Shawkat in this June 2000 file photo. — Reuters picAssef Shawkat in this June 2000 file photo. — Reuters picLiwa al-Islam, an Islamist rebel group whose name means “The Brigade of Islam”, said in a statement on its Facebook page that it “targeted the cell called the crisis control room in the capital of Damascus”.

A spokesman for the group confirmed the claim by telephone.

The Free Syrian Army also claimed responsibility for the attack. “This is the volcano we talked about,” said spokesman Qassim Saadedine. “We have just started.”

A Syrian security source said a suicide bomber who detonated explosives at the meeting of ministers and President Assad’s top security and military officials was a bodyguard for the president’s inner circle.

Syrian state television said Defence Minister Daoud Rajha was killed in the blast and a security source in Syria said Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, was also killed.

Intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar was wounded, security sources said.

State television said Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, who was reported killed in the blast by some Arab television stations, was in a “stable condition”. — Reuters

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