Al Arabiya reported Tuesday night that Syrian officials had confirmed reports that President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law and former head of military intelligence Assef Shawkat was killed in a Free Syrian Army attack four days ago.
According to the report, Assad and his wife Asma had visited a Damascus Hospital, where Shawkat was believed to have been receiving treatment, on Monday.
On Sunday Syrian state TV denied reports that Syrian opposition forces had killed six top regime officials, including Shawkat, in an overnight operation near Damascus. Two of the men who were allegedly killed gave a live phone interview on the TV channel’s news show.
Syrian rebels claimed in an Internet statement that they carried out a sophisticated attack that killed top political and security officials meeting in the capital.
Rebel leaders reported on Sunday that among those dead were Shawkat, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, and former defense minister Hasan Turkmani..
According to an Al Jazeera report, a special team of the Free Syrian Army killed the officials.
But the Syrian interior minister, Muhammad Shaar, denied the reports in a phone call to state-run Syrian TV, saying they were “laughable.”
“I am speaking to you from my office at the interior ministry,” he said.
Turkmani said the reports were proof of “media bankruptcy.”
“My colleagues and I are well and carrying out our duty to serve the country… these are blatant lies,” he said.
Syrian officials rarely respond to claims and statements issued by the opposition and their quick denials on Sunday were unusual.
Clashes in the heart of the Syrian capital have become more common recently but are still rare compared to other opposition strongholds in Syria that witness deadly violence almost daily.