Mystery swirls over
Assad cousin’s arrest

Monzer al-Assad had reportedly been conspiring against the regime.

Syrian police. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

BEIRUT – One of Bashar al-Assad’s cousins has been arrested upon direct orders from the Syrian president amid reports he had been conspiring against the regime.


Monzer Jamil al-Assad has been arrested in the coastal city of Latakia after “becoming involved in illegal activities,” official sources told pro-Damascus daily Al-Akhbar.


According to a report by the Lebanese newspaper published earlier in the week “dozens of military patrols have filled the streets of the city in recent days.”


The report added that news had “circulated in Latakia that these patrols came from the capital to arrest Monzer al-Assad, at the direct orders of the president.”


“The checkpoints set up by the patrols carried out intensive search procedures, looking for the wanted man who lives the Al-Ziraa neighborhood next to the university in the city’s southern suburbs.”


“This came after the Al-Ziraa neighborhood was cordoned off a few days ago, and Monzer’s house surrounded,” Al-Akhbar reported, adding that Monzer had attempted to hide from the security service members.


Meanwhile, pro-opposition Souria Net reported Wednesday that Monzer had not been formally arrested, but was instead “was brought to Damascus against his will upon the orders of Bashar al-Assad.”


“Over 150 members of the Presidential Palace’s special forces surrounded the Al-Ziraa area in coordination with Latakia security service personnel,” sources in the Democratic Vanguard Party—which is close to the ruling Baathist regime—told the news outlet.


“Monzer was asked to obey orders and accompany them to Damascus via the Jableh airport, and the issue was resolved without a firefight,” the report added.


“That same night, Monzer was returned to Jableh as if nothing had happened.”


Conspirator or criminal?


Conflicting reports have emerged over the cause of Monzer’s arrest, with some sources saying it was over a criminal matter while others indicated he had been conspiring against the regime.


Sources told Al-Akhbar that the arrest was prompted by an investigation “related to a conspiracy against the country’s security.”


The daily added that some claimed he was arrested for communicating with Rifaat al-Assad “to prepare something in Syria’s coastal region.”


Souria Net, in turn, cited its sources as saying that Monzer’s summons came after the National Security Bureau discovered he had communicated with Rifaat Assad over the status of Alawites in Syria.


“Rifaat al-Assad tried to communicate with Monzer and ask him to look for a solution to the problem the Alawites [have faced] and which has begun to deplete their forces, since blackness settled over all Alawite villages,” the report said, in a reference to the growing discontent in Alawite-populated areas over the deaths of young men in the civil war.


In 1984, Rifaat Assad attempted to seize control of Syria from his older brother Hafez, but the coup d’etat was thwarted. He then moved to exile in France where and established himself as an opponent to the ruling regime.


Al-Akhbar also reported the circulation of rumors suggesting Monzer was leading a kidnapping gang in Latakia, Tartous, Homs and Hama.


Latakia has witnessed an upsurge in crime in the past two months, with residents increasingly complaining about a rampant phenomenon of car thefts in addition to reports of financially-motivated kidnappings.


Al-Akhbar's report went on to cite a different explanation provided by Latakia residents: Monzer had tried to “appropriate the property of his brother Fawwaz, who died last month.”


However, the daily added, sources in contact with the family have denied this, saying that Monzer’s deceased brother had given all his property to his wife and children years before his death.


Other sources noted that “the extent of the security deployment that preceded Monzer’s arrest, and [the fact that] it coincided with the arrest of dozens of other people indicate the existence of a more serious matter.”


Assad deaths in Latakia


The arrest of Assad’s cousin comes on the heels of the killing of Mohammad Tawfiq al-Assad, a powerful cousin of the president known as the “Chief of the Mountain.”


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on March 14 reported that he was shot several times in the head during an argument with a “powerful figure” in the Assad family’s hometown of Qardaha, 25 kilometers southeast of Latakia.


Sources denied to the Observatory that Mohammad Assad had been killed during clashes with Islamist battalions outside Latakia, as reported by pro-regime media outlets.


A year prior to the killing of Mohammad Assad, another cousin of the president had been killed in murky circumstances.


Syrian state TV in March 2014 reported that Hilal al-Assad, who was the leader of the National Defense Force militias in the Latakia region, had reportedly killed in clashes with Islamists near the Armenian town of Kassab north of Latakia.


However, the rebel Jaysh al-Islam group said they had killed him with a rocket strike while he was meeting with a group of NDF officers.

Syrian security personnel arrested Monzer al-Assad in Latakia. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

The extent of the security [forces’] deployment that preceded Monzer’s arrest, and [the fact that] it coincided with the arrest of dozens of other people indicate the existence of a more serious matter.

  • volker.wetzel

    (if they attack each other then the Chance of getting out the right one will be extremely high)

    April 17, 2015