Defense Minister, a Greek Orthodox Church member, of Syria killed in suicide bomb
- Three men at the heart of President Assad's defence team have died in a suicide bombing, Syrian state TV says. The president's defence minister, brother-in-law and head of his crisis team were at a meeting at national security headquarters in Damascus. No footage has yet emerged of the attack in which the national security chief and interior minister were also said to have been wounded. It comes as rebels claim to have launched an offensive on the capital. For the past three days, rebels have fought with troops in several parts of the city, declaring their operation, entitled Damascus Volcano, a final battle for the capital.
(1) Gen Daoud Rajiha had been defence minister for less than a year, serving previously as chief of staff, and was on a US blacklist for his role in the suppression of dissent. He was believed to be an Orthodox Christian - a rarity in the Alawite-dominated Syrian military and government.
(2) Gen Assef Shawkat was married to Mr Assad's sister Bushra and considered a top security chief and a member of the inner circle of the regime. He is the closest person to the president to be killed so far and his loss is a triple blow for the ruling family, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says.
(3)Gen Hassan Turkomani was a former defence minister and assistant to the vice president as well as being in charge of President Assad's crisis management office.