Report: Influential Relative of Syria's Assad Assassinated

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Poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad at Umayyad Square in Damascus May 16, 2014. Credit: Reuters

An influential relative of Syrian President Bashar Assad has been assassinated, Agence France Presse reports. Mohammad Assad, a son of the Syrian president’s cousin who was once involved in drug smuggling, was reportedly shot dead in a dispute over control of a government stronghold in Latakia, a province in the Alawite heartland, Assad’s main power base.

Syrian state media did not report the killing, which purportedly took place on Friday, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Mohammed Assad was one of the founders of the “shabiha”, a government affiliated mafia-like group. The group dealt in smuggling and selling contraband, and was used by the government to quell political dissent, particularly since the outbreak of the 2011 uprising. Mohammed Assad was known as “Lord of the Mountain,” amassing vast wealth while in the shabiha.

In 1994, he went into business in the Qardaha area of Latakia, employing hired thugs to do his business. He was wounded in 2012 in a dispute with a local resident, raising questions about tensions in the pro-government stronghold, fueled by the civil war which has so far claimed more than 210,000 lives.

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