Syria’s defence minister and President al-Assad’s brother-in-law have both been killed in a suicide attack, according to Syrian state TV.
A security source is quoted as saying the suicide bomber worked as a bodyguard for the president’s inner circle.
The attack is said to happened at the regime’s security headquarters in Damascus, and comes amid intensified fighting in the Syrian capital.
Two groups have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack that’s also said to have killed several top officials.
An Islamist rebel group and the Free Syrian Army both say they carried it out.
Before the attack, government supporters were claiming the rebels would be defeated.
“I think the situation in Damascus is largely under the control of the government forces who will eliminate the rebels in the troublespots where there have been clashes,” said Adnan Abed, chief editor of the official Al Baath Newspaper.
It’s hard to verify either side’s claims. The rebels say they captured several tanks in Homs province.
Earlier this week the rebels launched Operation Damascus Volcano, to try to seize control of the Syrian capital.
The latest attack would appear to be the first to strike at the heart of the regime.