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Albin Szakola

Feared Syrian security chief dead

Rustom Ghazaleh had been beaten upon the orders of a rival and then dismissed by Assad.

Rustom Ghazaleh. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

BEIRUT – Notorious Syrian security chief Rustom Ghazaleh has died weeks after a violent altercation with a fellow regime official, according to a leading pro-Damascus media outlet.

 

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen network on Friday morning reported that “former Syrian army political security chief General Rustom Ghazaleh has died.”

 

Syria’s state TV has yet to confirm Ghazaleh the story, however other outlets supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime carried reports of his death.

 

The status of the influential Assad insider been shrouded in mystery since late February, when news began to emerge that Ghazaleh was receiving medical treatment in a Damascus hospital.

 

MP Assem Qanso, a member of Lebanon’s Pro-Damascus Baath Party, claimed that Ghazaleh had been hit by shrapnel while fighting to defend his hometown of Gharfah in the Daraa Governorate.

 

Heavy fighting had raged around Gharfah in February, with regime troops backed by Hezbollah, National Defense Force Militias and Iranian combatants engaged in battles against insurgents in the area.

 

However, shortly afterward news began to come out from within Syria that Ghazaleh had actually been injured after a dust-up with the head of Syria’s Military Intelligence Rafiq Shehadeh.

 

Following the incident, Assad fired both Shehadeh and Ghazaleh, replacing them with shadowy figures.

 

“Taking a beating”

 

A number of leading Arabic-language publications in March reported variations of a story that Shehadeh had ordered Ghazaleh’s beating after a dispute between the two over the role of Iran in Syria.

 

Al-Quds al-Araby reported that Ghazaleh refused to turn over his house in his Daraa hometown to Iranian and Hezbollah forces so they could set up artillery and tanks in it that would have been used to strike opposition fighters near the village.

 

“He then openly defied orders and released a video of his house being blown up to send a clear message that no foreign forces would ever enter it,” the report added.

 

The pan-Arab daily added that Shehadeh then proceeded to call Ghazaleh and question his manhood, after which the latter said he “would prove his manhood by coming into Shehadeh’s office in [Damascus’] Kfar Souseh and stomping on his head.”

 

As soon as he arrived Ghazaleh was intercepted by eight of Shehadeh’s guards. They proceeded to beat him severely, and then he was dragged bleeding into the office where Rafiq Shehadeh spat on him and ordered his guards to take Ghazaleh to a hospital, the paper also said.

 

Al-Arabiya for its part reported that after Shehadeh hung up on Ghazaleh during a heated phone conversation, the latter called again to tell him he “was coming to his office in Military Intelligence.”

 

When Ghazaleh arrived, he was reportedly detained by guards and severely beaten for several hours, after which he was transferred to a hospital.

 

A History of Intimidation

 

Ghazaleh has an infamous history in Lebanon, where he presided over the Damascus regime’s military intelligence apparatus from 2002 until Syria’s withdrawal from the country following the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri.

 

The feared figure kept a residence in the Beqaa border town of Anjar, which top Lebanese political figures would visit to curry favor with Syria’s de-facto envoy to the country.

 

The UN International Independent Investigation Commission investigating the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri questioned Ghazaleh over the killing, but did not formally link him to the incident.

 

However, Ghazaleh and Hariri had a personal history of political animosity, with media reports saying the Syrian official had personally threatened Lebanese politician.  

 

In February testimony to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Hariri’s close confidante Ghaleb al-Shamaa told the court that the former premier had been compelled to give over $10 million to Ghazaleh between 1993 and 2005.  

 

Political witnesses called up by the tribunal to paint a description of Lebanon’s political situation leading up to Hariri’s assassination have all given testimony of Ghazaleh’s feared position in Lebanon and interventions in the country’s politics.

 

The security chief held a number of increasingly important security posts following his return to Syria, serving as the head of military intelligence for the Damascus province upon the outbreak of the revolution in 2011.

 

The following year he was appointed head of Syria’s political security.

Rustom Ghazaleh. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

As soon as he arrived Ghazaleh was intercepted by eight of Shehadeh’s guards. They proceeded to beat him severely, and then he was dragged bleeding into the office where Rafiq Shehadeh spat on him.

  • Petrossou

    Good riddens!!!

    April 27, 2015

  • fadi c

    I just hope that just as he expired, he re-lived all the horrors he caused. And that he realized that for that, he would face eternal damnation.

    April 25, 2015

  • muhammad.ahmad.7712

    so whose next?

    April 24, 2015