The disintegration of President Bashar al-Assad’s ‘inner circle’ has prompted huge celebrations on the streets of Syria. This morning’s suicide bombing on security headquarters in the capital, Damascus, is very much being seen as the beginning of the end for the Assad regime.
These are the scenes from unverified YouTube footage uploaded apparently just a matter of hours after the explosion. Here, excited people in Idlib and Aleppo, zooming around on bikes and in their cars and trucks tooting horns and waving flags. The deadly blast wiped out the men closest to Assad, who’ve no doubt been helping the President orchestrate the government activities during the 16-month-long conflict.
Assad's brother-in law, Assef Shawkat, was killed alongside defence chief Daoud Rajha and Syrian general Hassan Turkmani – who was a former Defence minister and senior military official. They’d all convened at a tactical meeting at national security HQ. There are also reports that the Interior minister, Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, and the Intelligence chief, Hisham Bekhityar, were injured as their bodyguards tried to protect them. The rebel Free Syrian Army and a jihadist group calling itself Lord of the Martyrs Brigade both said they were behind the bombing.
Syria has wasted no time though – within hours of the deaths, a new Defence Minister was installed. General Fahad Jassim Al-Freij appeared on the Addounia TV channel, confirming that the attack ‘will not stop our armed forces from their duty to find the culprits and cut every hand that threatens the security of this nation and its civilians’.