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Suicide Bomb in Syria Kills Defense Minister, 2 Other Leaders

Defense minister Daoud Rajiha

A suicide terrorist bombing in Syria killed three high-ranking Syrian officials—Daoud Rajiha, the country’s defense minister, and also the head of the crisis management office and a top general who was married to President Assad’s sister.

It was a sign of a nation that is reeling from the onslaught of rebels, who are now trying to take the capital city of Damascus.

Daoud Rajiha, Assef Shawkat and Hassan Turkomani had been at a meeting at the national security HQ in Damascus. No footage has emerged of the attack. Syria’s national security chief and interior minister were also said to have been wounded in the bombing.

Gen. Shawkat was considered a top security chief and a member of the inner circle of the regime. He was married to Assad’s sister Bushra

In the last two days, some of President Assad’s inner circle of power have been killed, an army barracks overlooking the presidential palace has been engulfed in flames, and clashes have been moving closer to the heart of Damascus.

The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a jihadist group calling itself Lord of the Martyrs Brigade both said they were behind the bombing.

As events in Damascus unfolded, UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan called for a delay to a Security Council vote on a Western-sponsored resolution threatening Syria with tougher sanctions.

‘A statement by the armed forces read out on TV said Syria was “more determined than ever” to fight terrorism and wipe out “criminal gangs”.

Whoever thinks that killing top commanders “can twist Syria’s arm… is delusional”, it said.

But the BBC’s Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says that the rebels now clearly believe that victory is within sight, and the deaths will give them even greater heart.

UN chiefs, who have until Friday to renew the mandate for observers in Syria, have been trying to persuade China and Russia to agree tougher measures on Damascus.

Speaking at a news conference with his UK counterpart in Washington, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the situation appeared to be spiralling rapidly out of control.

Opposition groups say as many as 16,000 people have died in Syria since protests against President Assad began in March last year.

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