Syria: Bashar al-Assad ‘flees to Latakia

An information blackout was in place around
President Bashar al-Assad after an attack in
Damascus that killed three top regime officials
amid reports the Syrian leader had fled to his
family’s coastal stronghold.
Opposition sources and a Western diplomat stated
Mr Assad was in the coastal city of Latakia,
directing the response to the assassination of his
top lieutenants, according to Reuters.
Mr Assad, who has not made a public appearance
since Wednesday’s bombing, was said to be
commanding the government operation but it was
not clear whether Assad travelled to the
Mediterranean Sea resort before or after the attack.
“Our information is that he is at his palace in
Latakia and that he may have been there for days,”
said a senior opposition figure, who declined to be
David Cameron, the prime minister called on Mr
Assad to give up power to avert more chaos and
bloodshed. Speaking during a visit to Afghanistan,
Mr Cameron said: “I have a very clear message for
President Assad. It is time for him to go.
“It is time for transition in the regime. If there isn’t
transition it’s quite clear there’s going to be civil
Gen Daoud Rajha, the defence minister, Gen
Hassan Turkmani, assistant to the vice-president
and head of the crisis cell, and Assef Shawkat, the
husband of Mr Assad’s sister have been confirmed
as casualties of the attack and a number of other
senior leaders were injured.
Major Gen Robert Mood, head of the UN monitoring
mission, warned that the violence was spiralling, as
President Assad appeared to have gone to ground.
Security forces loyal to President Assad pounded
rebel hideouts in Damascus on Thursday in
retaliatory attacks for the blast that killed three top
anti-insurgency leaders.
Hundreds fled Damascus flashpoint districts amid a
surge of fighting following a bomb attack which
killed three security chiefs, as residents reported
shops closed and food shortages.
The troops used helicopters and heavy artillery
against the rebels, while snipers took up positions
on rooftops on the outskirts of the city, the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said. “Explosions are
heard throughout the capital,” it said.
“The regime has gone mad,” Rima Flaihan,
spokeswoman for the Local Coordination
Committees in Syria, said in a telephone interview
today from Jordan.
She said at least 200 people were killed across
Syria yesterday. “The regime is in a horrid state of
savagery, seeking revenge for the killings of the
military leaders,” she added.
The military gave residents 48 hours to leave areas
where clashes are taking place between security
forces and rebels who have launched the
“Damascus Volcano” offensive ahead of the start of
Ramadan fasting on Friday.
“These extremely violent clashes should continue in
the next 48 hours to cleanse Damascus of terrorists
by the time Ramadan begins,” a security official
The bomb attack that killed three top security chiefs
in Damascus marks “the beginning of the end of the
regime” of President Assad, an opposition
spokesman said on Thursday.
“We see that what happened (on Wednesday) is a
sign of the beginning of the end of the regime,”
Syrian National Council spokesman George Sabra.
“It was a major blow to (Assad) and the regime’s
repressive security apparatus.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog
said that in the western district of Mazzeh alone,
hundreds of people were on the move, “fearing a
large-scale operation by regime troops.”
Meanwhile the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak
said Syria’s alliance with Iran and Lebanon’s
Hizbollah was weakened by the attack.
“The blow is a severe one,” said Barak on a tour of
the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a day after a
blast tore through Syria’s national security
headquarters, killing the defence minister and two
other top officials close to President Bashar al-
“It’s also a severe blow to the radical axis, to the
Iranians and Hizbollah, who are the sole supporters
of the Assad family,” he said in remarks
communicated by his spokesman.
The minister said it was possible to watch the battle
playing out less than a kilometre (half a mile) away
in the Syrian village of Jebata al-Khashab.
“We can see the actual fighting, the mortars, hear
the bullets between the Syrian army to rebels or the
opposition,” he said.
“This shows how the disintegration (of the Assad
regime) is not abstract, it is real, it’s approaching,
and what happened yesterday in Damascus will
expedite the downfall of the Assad family,” he said.
The FSA, which had predicted an imminent
“surprise” on the eve of the attack, claimed that its
assault on the capital, named “Damascus Volcano”,
would take them to the verge of victory.
“This is the volcano we talked about; we have just
started,” said Qassem Saadedine, the group’s
spokesman. “We have smashed the inner circle of
Bashar,” another rebel official boasted.
A government sources said Assad’s mother and
sister have gone to Tartus province for the funeral
of his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat who was killed
in Wednesday’s Damascus bomb.
“Anissa al-Assad, the widow of (ex-president) Hafez
al-Assad and her daughter Bushra travelled on
Wednesday evening along with several women
from their entourage to Latakia and they then made
their way to Tartus.”

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