Saudi daily Al-Watan is reporting that Maher Assad, brother of Syrian dictator Bashir Assad has lost both legs and is fighting for his life after being injured in an opposition bombing of Syrian National Security Headquarters.
Maher has not been seen since the July 18 attack which claimed the lives of four key Syrian commanders including Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat. Mildly ironic, as Shawkat once had to be flown to France for life-saving treatment after having been shot in the stomach by Maher during an argument. The bombing was carried out by a bodyguard for Assad’s inner circle.
The report originates from an Al-Watan interview with Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in which he says Maher Assad is “struggling for survival after losing his two legs due to an explosion”. In the same interview Bogdanov is also quoted as supporting a “peaceful transfer of power” out of the Assad regime. This despite outward Russian support for the beleaguered dictator.
The loss of Maher Assad would be a blow to the Assad regime. Maher, referred to as the “muscle behind the throne”, commands the Fourth Armored Division and the praetorian Republican Guard, units comprised almost exclusively by members of Assad’s Alowite sect. A key member of Bashir Assad’s inner circle, it is rumored that he was considered for succession but the decision was made to go with the less hot-tempered and less brutal older brother Bashir, despite his lack of military training. Prior to the Syrian Revolution, Maher’s greatest command accomplishment was the assassination of 170 unarmed political prisoners in the notorious Saidnaya Prison.
The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the Bogdanov interview took place, saying “this looks like a new media provocation”. Al-Watan has posted a recording of the interview online, although Russian officials continue to deny reports that originate from it.
The Syrian Revolution is reported to have claimed over 22,000 lives since it began with anti-government protests last March. It now rivals Libya as the bloodiest incarnation of the so-called “Arab Spring”.