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Top general killed in Damascus ambush

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  • Published 12.02.12

Beirut, Feb. 11: Three gunmen ambushed a military general on a residential street in Damascus today, the Syrian government reported, in an assassination of a government stalwart that was the first of its kind in the Syrian capital and another step away from the non-violent roots of the anti-government protests.

The general, Dr Issa al-Khouli, a middle-aged physician and brigadier general who ran the Hameish military hospital, was shot dead as he stepped from his house in the morning, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Acquaintances of Dr Khouli’s reached by telephone confirmed his death, though not the details.

The doctor, trained in Romania and France, came from an Alawite family with close ties inside the Assad government that has run Syria for the past 40 years, according to one activist in Syria who was piecing together his biography.

He is believed to have been the nephew of Mohamed al-Khouli, the former head of the widely feared Air Force Intelligence Directorate, the most powerful of the multiple security agencies that cement the government’s power. The elder Khouli was a security adviser to President Hafez al-Assad until the President died in 2000.

The state-run news agency said the assassination came within “the framework of targeting the Syrian intellectuals and the medical and technical cadres”. Dr Khouli lived in a residential neighbourhood at the foot of Kassioun Mountain, which forms the backdrop of northern Damascus, not far from the city centre. His house was reportedly less than a kilometre from the Hameish hospital, where he was a specialist in physical therapy, the activist said.

Syria last experienced such killings in the 1970s and 1980s during the violent skirmishing between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was crushed. Assassinations of the government’s supporters and opponents have previously taken place in cities like Homs and Hama.