Beirut: In what seems to be the rebels' strongest blow at Assad's inner core, three senior ministers of Syrian regime, including President's brother-in law, were killed in a bombing inside the National Security building in Damascus on Wednesday.
Those killed were Syrian Defence Minister Daoud Rajha, his deputy Assef Shawkat(also Assad's brother-in-law) and General Hassan Turkmani, assistant to the Syrian vice president.
Turkmani was also the head of the crisis resolving team appointed by Assad to tackle the 17-month long conflict.
The bombing took place while a meeting of the Cabinet ministers and heads of security agencies was underway.
The media reports say that the bomber was none but a bodyguard for Assad's inner circle, who detonated his suicide vest in the meeting room.
The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a jihadist group called Lord of the Martyrs Brigade both claimed the bombing, says BBC.
"The terrorist explosion which targeted the national security building in Damascus occurred during a meeting of ministers and a number of heads of (security) agencies," state television said.
Reports say that Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar too was injured in the process, but was in stable condition, state-run TV said.
Meanwhile, Assad appointed Fahd al-Freij as the new defence minister, state TV said.
The attack comes on the fourth day of clashes between the government troops and the rebels in the capital city.
Being a Christian, Rajha's death will be sympathised by the minority section, which constitutes 10% of the Syrian population and has been on the side of Assad regime.
Christians say they are particularly vulnerable to the violence sweeping the country of 22 million people, and they are fearful that Syria will become another Iraq, with Christians caught in the crossfire between rival Muslim groups.
The slain defence minister, had been a former Army General, and is the seniormost officer to be killed in a battle that is taking on a fierce form as the activists reported that the government has deployed heavy troops and brought weapons in violent districts.
The bombing has received a widespread condemnation, with US Defence Secretary saying that Syrian situation was "spinning out of control".
Panetta said Assad's government would be held responsible if it failed to safeguard its chemical weapons, which Western and Israeli official have said have been moved from storage sites.
Russia used this incident to reject any Western-backed resolution on Syria and said that "decisive battles" were taking place in Syria.
Iran on the other hand strongly denounced the attack saying that there was an urgent end to stop the arms flow to Syrian rebels.
At least 45 people were said to have been killed in the conflict in last three days.
For the past three days, rebels have been clashing with troops in an operation called ‘Damascus Volcano’ in a final combat for the capital.
Earlier in the day, Syrian President Bashar-al Assad government’s officials denied rebels’ claims to launch an ‘all-out offensive’ in Damascus.
First Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 15:42