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Syria at tipping point after bombing

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The attack on a national security building in Damascus was a powerful blow to both the heart of the Syrian capital as well as the inner circle of President Bashar al-Assad, with some analysts counting down to the end of the regime.

According to state media, three key regime insiders were dead — defense minister Daoud Rajha, his deputy and al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar was among several top officials seriously wounded in the bombing, according to opposition activists.

Whebe Katisha, a Lebanese military analyst, said: “When battles reach Damascus and come close to where al-Assad is living, this means that the capital has fallen militarily.”

Ahmed Mossalli, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, told dpa: “We can now say the countdown to the regime's downfall has started.

“How many days, how many months? We do not know. Still, we have reached a stage when some people inside al-Assad's circle are turning against him.”

The bombing, for which the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed responsibility, was carried out while senior military and security officials were meeting inside the building in the district of Rawda, according to state television.

“We expect this operation to plunge the regime into real confusion, while boosting the morale of the revolutionaries,” FSA founder Riad al-Asaad told dpa by phone.

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