Syria's rebel FSA claims deadly attack on top officials
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
An undated handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency (SANA) on July 9, 2012 shows Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Dawoud Rajha (C) attending with other officials a Syrian air defence live ammunitions exercise in an undisclosed location. REUTERS/SANA/HandoutSyria's rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsibility for a deadly Damascus attack on Wednesday that killed two top regime officials, the defence minister and the president's brother-in-law.
The command of the FSA "announces the good news of the outstanding operation this morning that targeted the National Security headquarters and the killing" of the officials "responsible for barbaric massacres," it said in a statement.
Syria to 'continue fighting terrorism:' army
Syria's army said it would "continue fighting terrorism" after a suicide bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus killed two top regime officials on Wednesday.
"The terrorist act increases the armed forces' determination to cleanse the country of terrorist groups," the army said in a statement.
Syria's defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law were both killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus on Wednesday that targeted National Security headquarters, state television said.
Defence minister General Daoud Rajha and deputy defence minister Assef Shawkat -- two of Syria's top security officials -- were killed in the attack, the broadcaster said.
According to Syria TV, Syrian government appointed General Fahad Jassim al-Freij as defence minister.
Security officials told AFP that several other participants attending a high-level meeting were wounded in the blast. A security source said the suicide attacker targeted the gathering with an explosives belt.
The officials said Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar was "badly wounded" and that the assistant to the vice-president, Hassan Turkmeni, was also injured.
The morning attack targeted the regime's most senior security chiefs, state television said.
It happened in the high security Rawda district in the heart of the capital as battles between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raged in Damascus for the fourth consecutive day.
Rajha, a Christian, was defence minister, deputy army chief and deputy head of the Council of Ministers. Assad himself is overall commander of the military.
Shawkat was deputy defence minister and a former military intelligence chief.
The National Security branch -- a linchpin of Syria's security apparatus -- is headed by General Hisham Ikhtiyar, who was also wounded in Wednesday's blast.
In mid-May this year, a reported attempt was made to poison Rajha, Ikhtiyar, Shawkat, Turkmeni and other key regime figures. A delivery boy was said to have added mercury to their food during a meal before fleeing.