A high-ranking Syrian military official died last week at a Russian military hospital and the body was covertly transported to Damascus, an unofficial source told the Russia Today television channel on Monday.
Activists in the Syrian opposition are claiming that the officer was none other than President Bashar Assad's brother, Maher Assad.
- Report: Germany helping Syria rebels with spy ship intel
- New envoy seeks unified voice on Syria
- Syria's Assad makes rare public appearance
According to the source, the official's body has been expatriated to Damascus last week in a private jet.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, denied the report, citing the Syrian government as saying that the tale was part of the "psychological warfare" tactics employed by the opposition to undermine the regime.
Meanwhile, Sky News' Arab-language channel quoted Mahmoud al-Hamza, a member of the Syrian National Council, an opposition group, as saying that "the Syrian president's brother, Maher Assad, was indisputably transferred to Damascus after he died." The statement was not confirmed by any other source.
The brother, a high-ranking official in the Syrian regime and a commander in the army, is reportedly a key figure in the battle against anti-government rebels.
A Western source said on Thursday that Maher Assad lost a leg in the attack that killed several top members of the Syrian regime in Damascus last month, including the president's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.
- Receive Ynetnews updates
directly to your desktop