As fighting intensifies in the Syrian capital Damascus, questions have arisen over the whereabouts of President Bashar Al-Assad. He has made no public appearances and no statement in response to the assassination of three of his top lieutenants in a bomb attack in the heart of Damascus on Wednesday.
Opposition sources and a Western diplomat claimed that Assad is in his palace in the coastal city of Latakia. It is still unclear whether Assad travelled to the Mediterranean sea resort before or after the attack.
His disappearance is intriguing to many.
“Everyone is looking now at how well Assad can maintain the command structure. The killings yesterday were a huge blow, but not fatal,” said a senior opposition figure, who declined to be named.
The rebels have made clear that their attacks are ultimately aimed at Assad. “God willing, this is the beginning of the end of the regime. Hopefully Bashar will be next,” Riad al-Assad, a commander of the rebel forces, told the Press Association over telephone.
There have also been claims from one rebel spokesman that Assad himself may have been at the fateful meeting and may have been taken to Damascus on a private jet after being wounded.
Amid speculation over Assad’s condition and whereabouts continues Russia denies it has plans to give refuge to the Syrian president.
A senior aide to President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow was not discussing taking in Assad, and that there were no plans for Assad to go to the Russian capital.
Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters Putin had not discussed where Assad might go in talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and separately in a telephone coversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday.