Syria's Assad - Reuters - August 1, 2010.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and then-Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib Mahmoud (middle), August 2010. Photo by Reuters
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Syria’s state television aired clip of deposed Syrian defense minister Ali Habib Mahmoud, Tuesday, after rumors circulated that Habib Mahmoud had been murdered due to criticism of the killing of demonstrators in Hama by Syrian forces.

“I remain a loyal soldier in the Syrian army,” Habib Mahmoud was shown saying.

Habib Mahmoud, in civilian dress, explained that his retirement from public service was due to health problems that required hospitalization. The broadcast was intended to dispel rumors that Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered his death.

Habib Mahmoud said the reports that he was fired because of criticism he had voiced against the killings  in Hama were hostile and part of a coordinated campaign of incitement and lies concerning the reasons his service was cut short.

“The story is completely fallacious and aimed at harming Syrian sovereignty and its national army,” he said.

In the video, Habib Mahmoud, speaking in a low tone, expressed his loyalty to Assad.

According to a report in the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper, the decision to replace Habib Mahmoud was due to his opposition to Syrian military actions in Hama, as well as the deployment of military units in a number of Syrian cities and districts.

On Tuesday, various opposition websites reported that Habib Mahmoud was fired and later executed by the Assad regime.