#Syrian President’s home town ‘still sealed off’
Qardaha – President Assad’s home town – is sealed off for the second day running, according to a resident of Latakia, 20km away. In a conversation via Skype, Awla Sulaiman told our colleague Mona Mahmood that the government had sent 30 tanks to Qardaha and planes were flying over the area.
The town is home to several prominent and wealthy Alawite families but it seems that conflict broke out among them at the weekend. There are several differing accounts of what happened (see earlier post). This is Awla Sulaiman’s version and, as with the others, the Guardian is unable to confirm it:
The Assad, Shalish and Othman families were spending time together on Saturday night in Qardaha. The wife of Rami Makhlouf, [President] Assad’s cousin, is from the Othman family. It is a huge and well known family in Qardaha.
According to some people who live in Qardaha, one of the men of the Othman family was asking Muhammad al-Assad: “When will Bashar leave? Are you waiting for the FSA to get to Qardaha?”
Muhammad al-Assad is one of the main supporters of shabiha [regime thugs] in Syria, with Rami Makhlouf. He provides the shabiha with lots of money.
Muhammed got very upset at the question. Not long after, Muhammad al-Assad and the Shalish family targeted the house of Rami Makhlouf’s father-in-law from Othman’s family with a hand grenade. Five members of the family were killed, but Muhammed al-Assad himself was shot and heavy clashes broke out between the two sides.
Some accounts say that Muhammad al-Assad later died of his wounds.
Yesterday, veteran Syria-watcher Joshua Landis posted a note on his blog saying:
The news about Assad clan fighting cannot be confirmed and originates from All4Syria, Ayman Abdulnour’s site. Although an excellent site, it is sometimes quick to copy reports and must sometimes retract what turns out to be rumour.
In an email to the Guardian today, Landis told us he is keeping an open mind about the reports:
Over the years I have been told so many stories about the first family being at daggers drawn or being held prisoner by each other, etc that I am usually hesitant to bite until there is some eyewitness I trust. Too much potential for wish fulfilment, etc.