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Deadly explosion kills top Syrian officials, government pledges retaliation


08:35, July 19, 2012

DAMASCUS, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Two top Syrian officials were killed and others injured when an explosion ripped through the national intelligence headquarters in the capital Damascus on Wednesday morning, dealing a strong blow to the Syrian leadership, which pledged tough response to the attack.

Syrian Defense Minister Dawood Rajha, and his Deputy, Assef Shawkat were killed in the bombing, whose circumstances remain murky, as the state-TV said it was a suicide bombing while the broad-based opposition said the blast was controlled remotely. Shawkat is also the president's brother in law.

The two defense officials along with the Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar and many others of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle were holding a meeting in the blasted building. Al-Shaar was injured and later declared stable and survived his wounds.

Still, no further details were provided about the other figures who were present at the meeting.

Right after the blast, security and army forces beefed up presence and fanned out around the area, ringing it with big busses.

The blast is considered as a tough blow to the Assad administration, which has managed to hold together during the 16- months bloody unrest.

However, the ministry of defense pledged tough response for the once-unthinkable bold attack.

In a statement carried by the state-TV, the ministry pledged to eradicate the armed groups and their hideouts, adding that the recent attack will only strengthen the forces' resolution to eliminate the terrorists across the country.

It said that he who thinks he would twist the arm of the administration by killing top officials is "delusional."

Meanwhile, an Islamist extremist group reportedly claimed responsibly for the attack, while the head of the Syrian opposition forces, based in Turkey, said his militia will carry on more attacks.

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