A powerful car bomb which was rammed into the Damascus headquarters of Syria’s National Security Service has killed several senior officials, including Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha and one of his deputies. Interior Minister Muhammed al-Shaar has received injuries in the blast.
Syrian state television said President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law and also deputy defense minister Assef Shawkat was also killed in the bomb attack
In a newsflash it announced the "martyrdom of deputy defense minister General Assef Shawkat in the terrorist bombing which targeted the National Security building in Damascus".
According to Reuters, the attacker was a member of the security detail of President Bashar Assad. An Islamist group named Liva al-Islam has said on its Facebook page that it was responsible.
The attack comes a few hours ahead of a session of the UN Security Council on the Syrian crisis. The members will be discussing whether to extend the mandate of the UN observers in Syria.
The suicide bomber who today struck the National Security building in Damascus was a bodyguard, responsible for the security of Bashar al-Assad’s top officials, media cite a Syrian security source as saying.
The blast killed Syria’s Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, the military intelligence chief and wounding the country’s interior minister.
Syria vowed on Wednesday to punish those responsible for a bomb attack which killed the defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, saying it would "chop any hand that harms national security".
"The armed forces are determined to terminate the killing gangs and criminals and pursue them wherever they go," a military statement read out on state television said. "Whoever thinks that by targeting some commanders they can twist Syria's arm, is delusional".
Still, Damascus blast has raised questions about the ability of Syria’s security forces to sustain the embattled government.
Wednesday's explosion, coming after days of pitched battles in the capital of Damascus, came as a huge blow to the Assad regime, highlighting its growing vulnerability while showing the increasing ability of rebels in the 17-month crisis. But analysts said it unlikely mark a decisive turning point for rebels, who remain outgunned by the Syrian military.
U.S. officials said the developments in Syria showed Mr. Assad was losing control of the country, and said it was urgent that the international community increase pressure for him to step down.
Barack Obama has called Russian President Vladimir Putin; the two acknowledged differences over the issue of sanctions against Damascus, the White House said.
A United Nations Security Council vote on the future of a moribund peacekeeping mission, which expires Friday, was postponed until Thursday.