Syria: President's brother-in-law 'accused of US-backed coup'

Damascus, 9 April (AKI) - Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law has reportedly been arrested for aiding a possible US-backed coup against the Syrian regime, according to reports in various internet sites and newspapers of the Syrian opposition on Tuesday.

Al-Assad then sacked his brother-in-law, Assif Shawqat (photo), from his post as military intelligence chief, while the Syrian regime tried to keep media officials from confirming or denying the arrest, according to Arab satellite TV network Al-Arabiya.

According to the report, before his assasination, the leader in Lebanon's militant Shia group Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyeh, told al-Assad about Shawqat's betrayal, having taken advantage of his position as head of intelligence.

Imad Mughniyeh was the intelligence chief of Hezbollah's secretive military wing, the Islamic Resistance. He was killed in a bombing in Damascus on 13 February.

Reportedly, Shawqat had contacts with US intelligence and was planning a coup to unseat al-Assad.

Members of the Syrian opposition do not exclude the possibility that Shawqat's detention was done to please certain western and Arab countries who consider him the mastermind behind the assassination of former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri.

Shawqat is married to Assad's sister, Bushra al-Assad who is now in Paris, France with her children.


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