Shawkat. Arrested along with men
Assad. Informed of plot
An attempt to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was thwarted without the international community's ever having noticed, German newspaper Die Welt reported Saturday, citing international German intelligence sources.
The report stated that Assaf Shawkat, Syrian military intelligence chief and Assad's brother-in-law, planned to sieze control of the government while the president was hosting a meeting of the Arab League in Damascus in February. Shawkat was detained along with a hundred other Syrian intelligence officers.
According to Die Welt, Assad was informed of the turnover attempt by Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyah, who was assassinated in Damascus days later. The intelligence sources postulated that the targeted killing of Mugniyah had been planned by Shawkat's associates, as retaliation for the disclosure of the planned rebellion.
Two months ago Abd al Halim Khaddam, banished former vice president of Syria who deserted the country in order to join the opposition and now lives in Europe, told a Lebanese news network that Assad had decided to take advantage of Mugniyah's death in order to dismiss Shawkat and to appoint his nephew Hafez Makhlouf in his stead.
According to Khaddam, the reason for Shawkat's dismissal was that the latter, after having been chosen to lead the investigation following Mugniyah's murder, proved that the explosion that caused the Hizbullah leader's death had taken place inside the car, and that the killers had come from Syria.
This version contradicted the one that Assad had ordered published, according to which Mugniyah was killed by the explosion of a gas tank in his car.
Claims of Syrian intelligence officers' involvement in Mugniyah's death have been voiced recently. The Lebanese paper Al-Shiraa claimed that Syrian intelligence had broken into the homes of two of its officers on March 29, and killed them with shots to the head. The paper claimed the officers had been murdered due to their involvement in the targeted killing.