Report: Assad's brother 'fighting for his life,' month after Damascus bomb attack
Russian deputy foreign minister tells Saudi newspaper that Maher Assad, commander of the Fourth Armored Division, lost both his legs in an attack last July; report adds Bashar Assad signals he is willing to give up power.
Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother, Maher, who commands the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian military, lost both of his legs in a Damascus bomb attack on July 18, Saudi newspaper Al-Watan reported on Tuesday.
Quoting Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the newspaper reported that Maher Assad's condition "is very serious and he is fighting for his life."
The July blast took place during a high-level meeting at the state security ministry in the capital. Among those killed were Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani, and Assad brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who served as the country's deputy defense minister. The suicide attack was carried out by a bodyguard for the president's inner circle, a Syrian security source said at the time. Until now it was unclear whether Maher Assad had attended the meeting.
Bogdanov added that President Assad is prepared to give up power, according to the Al-Watan report. "We ask that this issue be dealt with quickly to bring about a solution to the crisis," he said. "We are speaking with the opposition and the Syrian government on a daily basis."
Last June, Al-Arabiya reported that Turkey dispatched a special envoy to Syria with a letter requesting the removal of Maher Assad from his position of command over Syria's Fourth Division and Presidential Guards.
According to that report, Turkey asked to clarify the opinion that even if reforms by President Assad are accepted, a decisive majority of the Syrian people were not ready to accept his brother Maher's military activities and command.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group denied on Tuesday that one of its members was captured by Syrian rebels in Damascus.
The group said Tuesday that a report by Arab satellite TV Al-Arabiya purporting the Free Syrian Army captured a Hezbollah member was not true.
In May, Syrian rebels captured 11 Lebanese Shiites shortly after crossing from Turkey on their way to Lebanon.
The Lebanese are apparently held to try to pressure the government in Beirut to show greater support for the rebels — which is unlikely because of Hezbollah’s strong influence.
Also on Tuesday, former Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab referred to President Bashar al-Assad's government as an "enemy of God", in his first public appearance since defecting from the government.
He told a news conference in Amman that he defected and joined the 17-month-old revolt against Assad of his own will, and was not dismissed as reported by Syrian authorities.