BEIRUT (AP) - Gunmen killed the brother of Syria's parliament speaker in a hail of bullets as he drove to work in Damascus on Tuesday, the state news agency said, as the international envoy for Syria warned the country could become another Somalia.
Mohammed Osama Laham, the brother of Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham, became the latest victim of a wave of assassinations targeting Syrian officials, army officers and other prominent supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime. Four of the leader's top security officials were killed in a rebel bombing on the state security headquarters in Damascus in July.
Laham was gunned down in the Damascus neighborhood of Midan, the SANA state news agency said. 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.
The government and activists said a series of explosions Tuesday evening rocked the northwestern edge of Damascus. At least 13 people were killed and 30 wounded, according to a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. SANA said the three blasts occurred in the al-Wuroud district near the town of Qudsaya, causing significant destruction.
Activists said the bombs were placed in a main square near housing for the country's elite troops from the Republican Guards, which is led by Assad's brother Maher in charge of protecting the capital.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who, like his predecessor Kofi Annan has been unable to put an end to the 19-month-old civil war, called the events in Syria a "big catastrophe." In remarks published Tuesday in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, he said international efforts now are focused on getting a "binding resolution by the (U.N.) 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," Brahimi said. "I believe that if the crisis is not solved in a right way, there will be the danger of Somalization. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of war lords and militias."