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Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 15:28 UK

Top Syria official 'assassinated'

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Mohammed Suleiman was said to be close to President Bashar al-Assad

A senior military official close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been assassinated, according to Arab media reports.

The official, identified as Brig Gen Mohammed Suleiman, was shot dead on Friday night at a beach resort near the port city of Tartus, the reports say.

Damascus has so far refused to comment on the alleged shooting.

The Free Syria website, which opposes the Syrian government, described him as President Assad's top security adviser.

Pan-Arab newspapers al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat say Mr Suleiman had responsibility for sensitive security issues.

Mr Suleiman was also reported to serve as Syria's liaison officer to Hezbollah - a powerful political and military organisation of Shia Muslims in Lebanon.

Report details

The circumstances of the alleged shooting remain unclear.

The first report of Mr Suleiman's death appeared on Saturday on the Arab website al-Bawaba, which said he had been killed by a seaborne sniper.

Another website, run by a member of President Assad's ruling Baath Party, Ayman Abdul Nour, said Mr Suleiman was shot on Friday night at his beach house.

A sniper on a yacht was behind the attack, according to the website of former regime figure and now exiled dissident Abdul Halim Khaddam.

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper offered more detail saying he was shot with four bullets.

According to the website reports, a funeral service was held for Mr Suleiman on Sunday in his hometown of Duraykish, close to Tartus.

It is the first assassination in Syria since February, when Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh was killed in a car bomb explosion in the capital, Damascus.





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