The Syrian government took a hard hit Wednesday when an explosion at the National Security headquarters in Damascus killed four top aides of President Bashar al-Assad. The opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. FSA Col. Malek al-Kurdi said rebel groups in Damascus planted explosives in the building and detonated them remotely when security officials and cabinet members gathered for a meeting. No rebels were injured or killed in the operation.
According to state TV, Defense Minister Gen. Daoud Rajha, Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, security adviser and assistant vice president Hasan Turkmani, and President Assad's brother-in-law and Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat were killed in the explosion.
"The death of these key regime figures is a severe blow to the Syrian regime since this particular crisis unit led the repressive operations against the rebellion. It is the beginning of the end for the Assad regime and will encourage many more soldiers to defect,” said FSA Col. Aref Hamoud.
After the attack, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the situation in Syria “is rapidly spinning out of control, and for that reason it's extremely important that the international community, working with other countries that have concerns in that area, have to bring maximum pressure on Assad to do what's right, and to step down and to allow for that peaceful transition.”
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