Syria’s defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in a Damascus suicide bomb attack carried out by a bodyguard on Wednesday, the most serious blow to Assad’s high command in the country’s 16-month-old rebellion.
The bomber, said by a security source to be a bodyguard assigned to Assad’s inner circle, struck a meeting attended by ministers and senior security officials as battles raged within sight of the presidential palace.
State television said Defence Minister Daoud Rajha and Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, the deputy defence minister, had been killed in a “terrorist bombing” and pledged to wipe out “criminal gangs”.
A Syrian security source confirmed Shawkat, 62, - a pillar of Assad’s rule - was killed and said intelligence chief Hisham Bekhtyar was wounded. State television said Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar had also been wounded in the blast.
Developing: Two people are dead after an incident aboard a cruise ship near Italy. The luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia was carrying 4,200 passengers. It’s been reported that the ship may have run aground, causing the ship to list to one side. Some passengers escaped the ship by jumping into the water, Sky News reported. [Photo: @CruiseShipCrew on Twitter]