Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes
July 19, 2012
Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, as battles raged in the center of Damascus a day after a bomber killed his top security chiefs.
The Syrian leader made no public appearance and no statement after a bomb in the heart of the capital killed his powerful brother-in-law, his defense minister and a top general, drawing fierce army retaliation with heavy artillery against the rebels.
On Thursday morning, residents said there was no let-up in the heaviest fighting to hit the city in a 16-month revolt against Assad’s rule, now into its fifth day.
The fighting came within sight of the presidential palace, near the security headquarters where the bomber struck a crisis meeting of defense and security chiefs.