Babylon & Beyond

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SYRIA: Mysterious assassination of a top general

August 4, 2008 | 10:36 am

The story of his death sounds like a scene from the opening of a spy movie. A top Syrian military official was reportedly sitting at his villa in a fancy beach resort on the Syrian coast on Friday when a sniper arrived in a yacht from the sea and shot him dead.

While authorities in Damascus kept quiet about the circumstances of his murder, a flurry of media reports in the Arab press and Syrian opposition websites highlighted the assassination of the brigadier general, Mohammed Suleiman, who was said to be the liaison between the Syrian government and Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

One news agency quoted an unnamed Lebanese army official as saying that Suleiman also had very close links with Imad Mughaniyeh, the former military commander of the Lebanese Shiite militant group, who was also mysteriously assassinated in February in Damascus.

Israeli press reports suggested that Suleiman, who served as a military adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, was responsible for arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Suleiman was thought to be in charge of overseeing both Iranian arms transfers to Hezbollah via Syria and shipments from Syria's own arms industry. He focused in particular on supplies of long-range rockets, including 220-millimeter rockets with a 70-kilometer range, the newspaper said.

Suleiman’s funeral service in his hometown on Sunday was reportedly attended by Syrian officials including Maher Assad, the brother of the Syrian president and head of the Presidential Guard.

Raed Rafei in Beirut