Maher Assad Appears for First Time in Four Yearsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Brig. Gen. Maher Assad, head of Syria's Republican Guard and the army's elite Fourth Armored Division, has reportedly appeared in a recent picture for the first time in four years, ending speculation about his fate after media reports said he was killed or injured in the Syrian civil war.
The powerful general, thought by some to be the second most powerful man in Syria after his brother Bashar, showed up flanked by renowned singer George Wassouf in a picture that was posted Wednesday on Twitter.
The photograph was published by Lebanese TV presenter Nishan Derharoutyounian.
“This picture was taken four days ago,” Nishan said on his official Twitter account.
In a show of support after the Syrian presidential elections, Wassouf had appeared in another photograph with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has won a third term in office in a controversial vote.
After the Syrian uprising erupted in mid-March 2011, troops led by Maher reportedly played a key role in violently suppressing protests in several parts of the country.
The United States, the European Union and the Arab League have slapped sanctions on him over his role in the conflict.
Maher's role became more significant after the assassination of Syria's defense minister and high-ranking security officials on July 18, 2012 in a Damascus bombing. After a four-day siege by rebel forces from 18 to 22 July 2012, the 4th Armored Division, commanded by Maher, swept through three rebel-held districts of Damascus.
In August 2012, Saudi newspaper al-Watan claimed that Bashar Assad was willing to step down and that his brother Maher had lost his legs in the July 18 bombing, allegedly quoting the Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov. The information was immediately denied in Russian media.
The daily then released an audio of the claimed conversation, but the voice reportedly did not sound like Bogdanov's. Other sources, including a Western diplomat, said they had heard Maher lost a leg.
A July 2013 report by pro-government websites stated that Maher has been commanding troops in the Aleppo and Homs theater of operations.
On August 20, 2012, rumors surfaced that Maher, who had not been seen since the July 18 bombing, succumbed to his injuries after Russia Today TV reported that a senior Syrian military official had died in a hospital in Moscow.
After the report was released, Syrian state media denied it was true.
However, on October 10, Abdullah Omar, a defected Syrian journalist, told CNN that Maher was treated in Russia but returned to the presidential palace. The journalist said Maher had lost his left leg in the bombing and also the use of his left arm.