Syrian authorities arrest relative of Assad after rare protest

August 11, 2015 00:15
1 minute read.

BEIRUT - Syrian authorities have arrested a relative of President Bashar Assad, the state news agency said on Monday, two days after protesters called for the man's punishment over his suspected killing of an army officer in a traffic dispute.

Hundreds of Syrians staged a rare protest on Saturday evening in the coastal city of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad and his Alawite sect, to demand the execution of Suleiman Assad, the son of the president's cousin Hilal.

State news agency SANA said the authorities had "arrested Suleiman Hilal Assad and transferred him to the relevant parties". It gave no further details.

Syria's state media had not reported the protest, the traffic incident or the reported killing.

Details of what happened vary. But according to the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights and supporters of President Assad on social media, Suleiman al-Assad was angered when Colonel Hassan Shaikh, who was in a car with his family, overtook his vehicle in a Latakia street, and so shot him dead nearby shortly afterwards.

In a video posted on social media, protesters at Saturday's rally chanted: "The people want the execution of Suleiman." They also chanted slogans in support of the president.

The arrested man's father, Hilal Assad, was killed in battles with Islamist insurgents last year.

In Syria's four-year civil war, Alawites who make up roughly 10 percent of the 23 million population have largely backed Assad against mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents.

But opposition activists say dissent has been growing within Assad's Latakia regional heartland largely due to a high death toll among Alawite fighters and civilians -- tens of thousands -- in the conflict, as well as official corruption.

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