A suicide bomb killed the Syrian defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law today, among other top officials, in the most direct and effective attack on the Syrian regime since the beginning of the uprising and civil war.
Reports said the officials had been killed by a bodyguard in a suicide bombing in the capital of Syria but other reports said a device was placed within the building. A “terrorist bomb” which exploded at a national security building in Damascus during a meeting of ministers and security officials wounded several people, some of them critically, state television said.
The state-run news agency SANA reported that Wednesday’s blast took place at the National Security building, a headquarters for one of Syria’s intelligence branches. Activists in Damascus said by telephone that Republican Guards sealed off the Shami hospital in the capital after ambulances had brought casualties from the site of the explosion.
“The terrorist suicide bombing” came in the high security Rawda district in the heart of the capital as battles raged in Damascus for the fourth consecutive day.
The Syrian regime often calls any attack on them the work of terrorists, whether true or not. In this case, the Free Syrian Army and the rebel group Liwa al-Islam took responsibility for the attack, so it certainly seems like a part of the ongoing civil war.
This reminds me of the bomb attack inside the Presidential palace in Yemen, which wounded and disfigured President Ali Abdullah Saleh, leading him to head to Saudi Arabia (and eventually the US) for treatment. This also led to Yemen accepting a transition agreement that now has the Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in power.
I don’t know if the same dynamic will play out in Syria; Assad himself was not hit in the attack. But this is a serious blow to the power dynamic we’ve seen, where the regime goes out and brutally represses civilians. The rebels have fought back in increasingly deadly ways. Today, for example, fighting continues in the capital, Damascus, a fourth day of carnage.
This does not yet signal a turning point. The citizens in the capital have not necessarily turned against the regime. But today’s attack adds an entirely new dimension to the civil war, with the international community hopelessly watching on the sidelines.