Suicide Blast Kills Key Assad Henchmen
State TV reports that more officials seriously wounded
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2012 5:46 AM CDT
Updated Jul 18, 2012 7:43 AM CDT
This image made from video provided by Shaam News Network Tuesday, July 17, 2012, purports to show Syrian tanks in Damascus, Syria.   (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)
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(Newser) – A regime-shaking suicide attack on the National Security building has killed Bashar al-Assad's defense minister and brother-in-law, according to the country's state-run TV. The New York Times calls the death of defense minister Daoud Rajha the "first assassination of a prominent official" in the entirety of the uprising. As for Assef Shawkat, who was married to Assad's older sister, the AP calls him "among the most feared figures in Assad's inner circle." Unconfirmed reports say the suicide bomber worked as a bodyguard for that inner circle.

The location of the attack is significant in more ways than one, notes BBC correspondent Mike Wooldridge: "Not only does the target add an entirely new dimension to the conflict, it is also close to the presidential residence. Most of the previous fighting has been on the southern side of the center of the capital." In another blow to the regime, Reuters reports that high-level defectors continue to pour across the border. Another 600 Syrians reportedly made their way to Turkey last night, and two Syrian brigadier-generals were said to be among the group. If true, that brings the tally of Syrian generals now in Turkey to 20.