Syrian official shot dead in Damascus

BEIRUT - Gunmen killed a government official in a Damascus restaurant, Syrian state media and activists reported on Friday as troops and rebels fought fierce battles near the Lebanese border.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 19 Apr 2013, 10:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:26 PM

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the official, Ali Ballan, was gunned down late on Thursday in Mazzeh, a western neighbourhood of the Syrian capital.

Ballan was head of public relations at the Ministry of Social Affairs and a member of Syria’s relief agency, the Observatory said. The state-run Sana news agency said terrorists opened fire at Ballan while he was dining at the restaurant, killing him instantly.

Since Syria’s crisis began two years ago, Damascus has seen a number of assassinations of government and security officials, as well as government supporters. Last month, a suicide bomber struck a Damascus mosque, killing a top Sunni preacher and outspoken Assad supporter, Sheikh Mohammed Said Ramadan Al Buti.

On July 18, a bomb inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus killed top security officials, including the defence minister and his deputy, who was also Assad’s brother-in-law, and wounded the interior minister. Rebels claimed responsibility for that blast.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued on Friday near the contested town of Qusair in the central Syrian province of Hom, along the Lebanese border. On Thursday, government forces captured a town in the province and rebels seized a military base in the area.

On Thursday, government forces captured the town of Abel, cutting the road between Homs and Qusair, said Rami Abdul Rahman.

Abdul Rahman, who heads the Observatory, added that the government appears to be trying to lay a siege on Qusair. The town has seen clashes and anti-government protests since the early days of the crisis in Syria.

“The fighting is heavy and there are many deaths on both sides,” Abdul Rahman said on Friday.

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