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Syria rejects Assad convoy attack claims

President is shown on state television after reports his motorcade was hit by rockets near his home in a Damascus suburb

Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 15:25
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Syrian rebels say they have targeted President Bashar al-Assad's motorcade near his home in Damascus, but state television has shown him unharmed and the government denies there was an attack.

Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from Beirut

A spokesman for the rebel group Liwa al-Islam, one of two that said they had carried out attacks in Assad's neighbourhood on Thursday, told Al Jazeera they were sure they had hit the convoy with rockets.

"We have monitors in the area who confirm that the attack hit some of the president's guards," he said. "It also hit checkpoints in the area. It was at 7:20 in the morning."

The spokesman said Liwa al-Islam had no information on whether Assad was in the motorcade but the group said that its sources in the Syrian government said that several people had been killed in the attack.

Omran Zoabi, the Syrian information minister, rejected the claims.

The footage shown on state television was described as being of Assad leading prayers at the Anas bin Malek Mosque the same morning.

Assad stood alongside ministers and appeared unharmed, smiling at worshippers as he entered the mosque.

"The news is wholly untrue," Zoabi said.

'Supposedly safe'

Reports say Assad may have been scheduled to perform Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end Ramadan. 

Al Jazeera's Nisreen el-Shamayleh, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said local residents had heared shelling in the area close to Assad's home around dawn.

Videos posted to YouTube, that Al Jazeera cannot confirm, purported to show smoke rising over Malki.

"This is the area where Assad lives and works," she said. "It is a very upscale and supposedly safe neighbourhood, which is still under the control of the government."

Another armed group told Al Jazeera that it had fired mortar bombs into Malki and that they had landed near the Chinese and Italian embassies and close to the headquarters of Assad's Baath party.

If confirmed, the attack would be one of the most direct against Assad in two years of conflict. 

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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