Gunmen assassinated an army general in Damascus on Saturday in the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March, SANA the state-run news agency said.
SANA said three gunmen opened fire at Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli in the morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine. Al-Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital. No one claimed responsibility for the killing.
The attack indicates that violence in Syria is reaching the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities. Such assassinations are not uncommon outside Damascus and army officers have been killed in the past, mostly in the restive provinces of Homs and Idlib.
The U.N. estimates that 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. But that figure is from January, when the U.N. stopped counting because the chaos in the country has made it all but impossible to check the figures.
The Assad regime says terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country are behind the uprising, not people seeking to transform the authoritarian regime. The Syrian government says more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers have been killed by terrorists since March.
Also Saturday, Syrian troops shelled the Baba Amr district in the central city of Homs, killing at least four people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees said 15 people were killed in Baba Amr on Saturday.
Syrian troops have been trying to regain control of areas in Homs since last Saturday when they started a major offensive on rebel-held areas. Activists say more than 400 people have been killed in Homs since then.
The Observatory also reported a rare clash between troops and defectors late Friday in the northern Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun but had no details. It said troops shot dead an activist in the area.
The violence came a day after two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in the northern city of Aleppo, killing 28 people. The blasts were the first significant violence in an industrial center that has largely stood by Assad during the 11-month uprising against his rule.
Anti-Assad activists denied any involvement and accused the regime of setting off Friday’s blasts to smear the opposition as government forces pummel rebels in one of their main strongholds, Homs. State media touted the bombings as proof the regime faces a campaign by terrorists.