Syrian state media say authorities have arrested Suleiman al-Assad, a cousin of the country's president, after the killing of an army officer that prompted protests in the city of Latakia.

Assad is accused of shooting dead air force Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh in an apparent road-rage incident on Thursday evening.

"Suleiman Hilal al-Assad has been arrested and transferred to the appropriate authorities," state news agency SANA reported, without adding details.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, citing local sources, said he was detained on the road between Latakia and Qardaha, President Bashar al-Assad's ancestral village.

The killing took place in the coastal province of Latakia, which is a government stronghold and home to many members of Assad's Alawite minority.

Both Sheikh and his alleged killer are Alawites, and the incident caused tensions in Latakia's provincial capital, where more than 1,000 people on Saturday protested the murder demanding justice.

Roadside shooting

Earlier on Monday, Syrian newspaper Al-Watan quoted Sheikh's relatives as saying the president had pledged the crime would not go unpunished.

Sheikh's wife Mayssa Ghanem told the paper, which is close to the government, that she had "received a promise from President Assad to punish the perpetrator, whoever he is".

Fawaz Gerges, of the London School of Economics and Political Science, tells Al Jazeera: "Assad is really in a very difficult position and he wants show his authority. I wouldn't be surprised if a trial takes place."

Suleiman al-Assad has been accused of killing Sheikh after the colonel reportedly overtook him at a crossroads in Latakia.

Residents in the city told Al Jazeera that Suleiman, who was driving a black Hummer without car plates, was angered when he was overtaken by Sheikh’s car.

He reportedly got out of his car holding an AK-47 and pumped seven bullets into the chest of the officer.

 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies