The British-born wife of Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad has fled to Russia after rebels killed three of his top security chiefs in a devastating suicide bomb attack, it was claimed.
Rumours of Asma Assad’s departure swirled around the capital Damascus within hours of the blast, which claimed the lives of the president’s brother-in-law and other top officials.
The president himself was believed to be in the coastal city of Latakia, directing a response to the attacks, as violence between rebels and pro-government forces intensified in the capital. There were signs that the 16-month uprising had reached a potentially pivotal stage, with rebel assassins reaching Assad’s inner circle for the first time and soldiers apparently defected en masse.
More than 200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence across the country yesterday, including 38 in Damascus where armed rebels are pressing an all-out offensive. Loud explosions, gunfire and attacks by helicopters were heard in Damascus yesterday, and it was suggested that troops had been issued with gas masks, raising fears that chemical weapons could be used. Russia, which has supported Assad, said a ‘decisive battle’ had begun in Syria.
Time for Assad to go: Cameron
British PM David Cameron called on Bashar al-Assad to fall on his sword. Cameron said, “I have a very clear message for President Assad. It is time for him to go. It is time for transition in the regime. If there isn’t transition, there’s going to be civil war.”