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Syrian Officials Deny Reports of their Own Deaths

Two high-ranking Syrian officials denied in interviews with state television on Sunday reports by pan-Arab channels that they along with four other regime stalwarts had been assassinated.

The interviews came after satellite channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya broadcast an amateur video showing an unidentified man claiming a rebel group's responsibility for killing the six officials.

Those named are part of President Bashar Assad's inner circle and members of the regime's "crisis management" team.

The unidentified man in the video claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Brigades of the Sahaba, or friends of the Prophet Mohammed.

He claimed the assassination was carried out by one person, after two months of surveillance.

The officials named included Assef Shawkat, Assad's son-in-law and military intelligence chief; ministers of interior and defense Mohammad al-Shaar and Daoud Rajha respectively; and national security chief Hisham Bakhtiar.

Also named were Hassan Turkmani, assistant to the vice-president, and Mohammad Said Bakhtian, assistant to the Baath Party chief.

"What the disgusting Al-Jazeera is broadcasting is completely false," Shaar told Syrian state TV by telephone. "We are used to this kind of news, and to these campaigns of lies and slander."

Turkmani too denied he had been killed in an on-screen interview during which he also slammed Al-Jazeera's report as being "packed with misinformation."

Meanwhile the opposition expressed doubts about the veracity of the claims.

One member of the Syrian National Council, the main opposition coalition, said the goal of the video was to "sow doubts."

"There is a war that aims to demoralize people" who support the anti-regime revolt, according to SNC member Jabr al-Shoufi.

The Syrian regime has accused Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya of inciting "discord" in Syria ever since a revolt broke out in March 2011.

Source: Agence France Presse


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