Damascus hit by new assassination as fears grow of ‘second Somalia’

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Gunmen have killed the brother of Syria’s parliament speaker as he drove to work in Damascus, the state-run news agency reported.

The shooting happened as the international envoy for Syria warned that the country could become another Somalia.

Mohammed Osama Laham, brother of parliament speaker Jihad Laham, was killed in the Damascus neighbourhood of Midan, the SANA news agency said.

It was the latest in a wave of assassinations targeting Syrian officials, army officers and other prominent supporters of President Bashar Assad’s regime. Four of the president’s top security aides were killed in a rebel bombing of the state security headquarters in Damascus on July 18.

The killing came a day after some of the most intense fighting in Damascus in months as
rebels wage a civil war to unseat Assad.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said what is happening in Syria is a “big catastrophe”.

In remarks published in a newspaper, he said the international efforts now are focused on getting a “binding resolution by the (UN) Security Council” to start a political process that will lead to change.

“I don’t want to go too far in pessimism, but the situation in Syria is very dangerous. The Syrian people are suffering a lot,” Mr Brahimi said. “I believe that if the crisis is not solved in a right way, there will be the danger of Somalisation. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of war lords and militias.”

The east African nation of Somalia has been mired in war for two decades after warlords overthrew a long-time dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other. The government, backed by African Union troops, is currently battling Islamist extremist rebels linked to al Qaida.

In another blow to the regime, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that seven Syrian generals defected to Turkey. The Anadolu Agency said they arrived in the Turkish border province of Hatay seeking refuge. Their identities were not disclosed.

The agency said they were taken to a refugee camp in Hatay that shelters defected soldiers.