A cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad was killed Sunday during clashes with rebels near the town of Kasab on tyhe Turkish border, Lebanon's Daily Star reported.

Hilal Assad had been the head of the National Defense paramilitary force in the province of Latakia, according to Syrian state media, which confirmed his death.

Islamist fighters in the area have been battling Syrian army forces for control of a bordser crossing with Turkey in the area in recent days.

Heavy clashes continued around Kasab crossing and a nearby village of the same name - both about 5 miles (8 km) from the Mediterranean coast - a day after rebels launched their assault.

Assad's forces have already lost control of most border crossings with Turkey during the three year civil war but had held on to Kasab, gateway to the coastal province of Latakia which has remained an Assad stronghold.

Syrian authorities accused Turkey of helping the fighters launch their attack on Kasab from Turkish territory, saying Ankara's army "provided cover for this terrorist attack" on the wooded and hilly border region.

On Sunday, Turkish armed forces shot down a Syrian plane which Turkey said had crossed into its air space in the area of Kasab crossing.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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