(photo credit: REUTERS)
According to a Syrian human rights watch dog, a relative of Syrian president Bashar Assad was killed on Friday after a heated exchange with another individual.
Known as "Sheik al-Jabal", Mohammad Tawfiq Assad was killed after an argument around regional influence in the Assad family's ancestral village of Qardaha, in the Alawite sect's stronghold, the Latakia province.
"Mohammad Assad, the son of one of the Syrian president's cousins was killed by five bullets to the head in the village of Qardaha," Rami Abdel Rahman, a representative for the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
The significance of 'regional influence' is vague, but may been understood given Mohammad Assad's dubious past and his roll in founding what is known as the "shabiha", a smuggling cartel with known links to the Assad regime that gained infamy in the 1990's.
According to Rahman, Mohammed Assad "made hundreds of millions of Syrian pounds and is considered one of the leading members of the Assad family in Qardaha, with hired thugs in his pay."
While this most recent incident does not appear to be linked to the now five-year-old civil war in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people and displaced millions of others, another member of the Assad family was killed by Damascus's heavily fragmented armed oppositions.
Hillal Assad, chief of a branch of Syria's Armed Forces, was killed in March of 2014 after fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida's regional affiliate engaged Syrian troops in north of Latakia. He suffered a gunshot to the chest and was taken to a military hospital where he was pronounced dead.