London, Asharq Al-Awsat, (Agencies) – Syria’s government is confirming the assassination last week of a senior military officer believed to have been a close aide to President Bashar Assad.
The confirmation by presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban is the first official comment by Syria on the assassination of Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman. The killing was widely reported in Arab media this week. Syria restricts its media and rarely comments on security matters.
Shaaban told reporters Wednesday that investigations were under way but did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, a Syrian source has told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is much difficulty in obtaining information from those close to Brig. Gen. Suleiman, his family, or acquaintances because they are not answering their cell phones. Contacting or talking to them remains impossible so far.”
The Syrian source explained that the reason for the authorities’ lateness in commenting on the news could be due to embarrassment, adding that the assassination of a figure of such importance and in this way is embarrassing for the regime as a whole, especially following the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in February and the destruction of the Dayr al-Zur reactor last September.
Syrian internet websites were the only source reporting it and they took it from the foreign and Arab media sources because there are no reports on the issue inside Syria.” While Iranian media organs reported the news and said the sniper “is an Israeli” without identifying its sources, another Syrian source told Asharq Al-Awsat it was early to assert that the assassination was connected to disagreements inside the Syrian elite and said “there are disagreements over interests between various groups. There are power centers in the regime and these disagree over the interests.” After pointing out to the difficulty at present of confirming or denying the involvement of persons from within the regime in the assassination, the source said “liquidation is done only by a central decision. This was a major operation and that person had a position in the regime and army.”