Suicide bomber kills Syrian defense minister, top security officials

A suicide bomber killed the top two defense officials and the president’s national security advisor, and seriously wounded the interior minister and the chief of the national security office, in an attack at a high-level meeting of security officials in Damascus today. The attack was claimed by both the “Brigade of Islam” and the Free Syrian Army.

The suicide bomber, who is said to have been a bodyguard of a senior official in the Assad regime, detonated his explosive vest during a high-level meeting at the National Security building in the Syrian capital. Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who is also President Bashir al Assad’s brother-in-law, and Hasan Turkmani, Assad’s national security adviser and assistant vice president, were killed in the blast, according to the state-run Syrian television. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar and the chief of the national security office, Hisham Bekhtyar, were wounded in the attack.

Both the Free Syrian Army and an Islamist group calling itself the Brigade of Islam claimed credit for the attack. The Liwa al Islam, or Brigade of Islam, claimed it “targeted the cell called the crisis control room in the capital of Damascus,” in a statement on its Facebook page, according to Al Jazeera.

The Free Syrian Army, which holds itself out as being the secular opposition to Assasd’s regime, said the attack was just the beginning of their offensive in Damascus. The group has previously denied responsibility for suicide attacks against security forces and said Islamist terror groups are not present in its ranks.

“This is the volcano we talked about, we have just started,” spokesman Qassim Saadedine told Al Jazeera.

Today’s attack took place as Damascus entered its fourth day of heavy fighting. The Assad regime has deployed tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and attack helicopters against rebel forces that have infiltrated the Syrian capital. Hundreds have been reported killed in the fighting.

For 17 months, the Assad regime has been fighting a tenacious rebellion against the Free Syrian Army and Islamist terror groups such as the Al Nusrah Front, the Al Baraa Ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Al Nusrah has claimed credit for several suicide attacks and complex assaults against Syrian security forces since the group announced its existence at the beginning of the year. More than 17,000 Syrians are reported to have been killed since the rebellion began early last year.

Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters, Dawn, CNN

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • m3fd2002 says:

    That one gotta hurt. An impressive strike if details are accurate. This has the potential of getting very ugly if the inner core of Baathists hold on at all costs. I’ve stated before that Assad has to go completely, either by private jet to Moscow or by coup d’├ętat in order to avoid this country from suffering a real tragedy.

  • wallbangr says:

    Yeah. And one wonders about the warnings issued by the white house to Assad et al about recent movement of chemical weapons noted by our eyes in the skies. One hopes it was to secure them and not to unleash them as a scorched earth tactic. Given that Damascus is ablaze in fighting right now and then this heavy blow, one hopes that the regime isn’t ready to get that desperate.

  • Niels Brinch says:

    A syrian commenator on the BBC says it might have been a remote controlled bomb planted at the place before the meting – that scenrio is also desrcibed in this Strafor comment…. what u think if this? best Niels

  • yeahright says:

    More info on the Liwa al Islam, please. Where is their Facebook page?

  • Gerald says:

    If the Rebels learn to combine their efforts, Assad is Toast. Iron Fist meet Stiletto!!

  • m3fd2002 says:

    You are right when commenting on the Bio/chem arms in the syrian arsenal. However, these weapons are not effective when used in small quantities. The only way a mass casualty attack could develop is if the regime decides to launch a concerted effort, or if a depot is spontaneously ignited. Both of those scenarios are catastrophic. The VX gas munitions are also very concerning if they fall into capable hands. Regardless, any deployment outside Syria would be met with overwhelming responses. And I mean responses, plural.

  • My2Cents says:

    Interesting. Someone had a plant in a high level position they were willing to expend and that was willing to suicide. You have to wonder what information he was relaying to the rebels before, and how much it was contributing to their success. And, if so, the fact that they expended the asset in this manner would indicate that we are already in the end game, either for the Assad regime or the rebel movement.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    What is their Facebook page? Yeah right, like every armed group in the Middle East has a Facebook page… get real, they most likely wouldn’t advertise what they’re doing on Facebook so they can remain undercover.

  • Larry says:

    Ok I’m confused now. This attack has all the hallmarks of an AQ operation yet according to the article
    “An Islamist group calling itself the Brigade of Islam as well as the Free Syrian Army claimed credit for the attack”
    So this means two different groups are claiming responsibility? From what I’ve read, AQI is sending operatives into Syria following Zawahiri having given the “go ahead” to attack the Assad regime. Several attacks have followed including the May 10, double suicide bombing, the sophistication of which, suggests AQI may have been involved.
    The Free Syrian Army, from what I understand, is a secular group and does not have a history of using suicide attacks. On the surface, IMO, this appears to be the work of a smaller Syrian Jihidist organization, probably carried out with AQI planning and or expertise.

  • firdhous says:

    The news should read as “Syrian brutal war mongers around moderate President Asad have been assassinated by suicide bomb paving way for democratic change in Syria”

  • george says:

    With the detail of the bombing and expertise it appears AQ does have something to do with this…..allied network etc. From US perspective I say bleed them. They are an Iranian puppet and directly support Hezbulla and always have. I have no sympathy at all. This definately hurts Iran. Its also telling about the timeliness of the Bulgarian bombing. This is a sad attempt by Iran to move arab attention back to the arab/Israeli issue. In hopes of funneling fighters and support away from the issue in Syria and back to their old standby. I personnally am hoping whoever….it doesnt matter that Iran keeps bleeding. We all owe them for decades of terrorism and murder.

  • Kent Gatewood says:

    What will the Sunnis do to the Alawites, Druzes, Shias, and Christians when they take power?
    If the outcome is bad enough from a Sunni takeover, the logical action for the above groups is to use their current advantages to kill more than three of the Sunnis for everyone of their (A, D, S, and C) dead.

  • chris says:

    I wonder if Assad was just late for the meeting / Rumors have him having left the capital for the coast.

  • bill says:

    Why assume that anyone in Syria with explosive ordinance knowledge has to have been trained by AQ?
    The Syrians, the Iranians, the Pakis, the Hezbollah, Hamas and the Israelis have all trained people in the Middle East. I would assume we have also trained Iraqis and Kurds on handling explosives. It is just as easy for Iraqis to travel to Syria as it was for Syrians to travel to Iraq.
    Blow back is not only a western problem.

  • Joe says:

    The likelihood is that this was not a suicide attack, nor was it connected to any Jihadist type group. Instead it was most likely a bomb planted at the meeting place by a regime turncoat or someone with access to such a highly secure location. If that is the case it is most likely a Free Syrian Army operation as that group is composed largely of former members of the Syrian military who would have the expertise and the connections to the people capable of carrying them out.

  • Reality Check says:

    Some here seem to think the FSA is secular, not so. This is the same mistake many made about events in Tunisia and Egypt. Some spokesmen might be or at least talk “secular” in English. If you understand the culture and the language you know the large bulk are not and large numbers are truly fanatical. The lastest call, smelling victory, is to liberate Damascus and el Kuds (Jerusalem).

  • Larry says:

    @ Joe & Bill: I don’t really know what to make of it. But this appears to have all the hallmarks of an AQ attack.
    It is entirely possible that it was not a suicide attack…only it is being reported as such. That’s the only reason I am operating on this assumption. I have also read that the explosives may have been planted. To further complicate and confuse things, 2 groups appear to be claiming responsibility. One Jihadist and one secular. In addition to all of this, its no surprise that Assad has not been seen. Given how close this “bomber” must have been to the regime’s top, Assad is probably scared of his own shadow!

  • Charu says:

    “What will the Sunnis do to the Alawites, Druzes, Shias, and Christians when they take power?”
    You know that it will be extermination for the lot. The Assads are brutal dictators, but are pussycats in the face of what is to come. The new emerging shape of West Asia and North Africa is a Sunni Islamist dream come true, just as the Iranian revolution and our blunders in Iraq were the Shia Islamist equivalent. AfPak will end up being the other Sunni Islamist pincer against the Shia Islamists. It would be easy to say a pox on both houses, until they inevitably turn their surplus homicidal youth bulge at democracies on either side.


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