Cousin of the Syrian president held over murder
Syrian authorities have arrested Suleiman al-Assad, a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of killing a military officer in a road rage incident.
"Suleiman Hilal al-Assad has been arrested and transferred to the appropriate authorities," the official news agency SANA reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group, citing local sources, said he was detained on the road between Latakia and Qardaha, President al-Assad's ancestral village.
Suleiman al-Assad, a first cousin once removed of the president, is accused of shooting dead air force Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh in an apparent road rage incident last week.
The incident took place in the coastal province of Latakia, which is a regime stronghold and heartland of the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs.
Both al-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.
Yesterday, Syrian daily 'Al-Watan' quoted al-Sheikh's relatives as saying the president had pledged the crime would not go unpunished.
Al-Sheikh's wife Mayssa Ghanem told the paper that she had "received a promise from President Assad to punish the perpetrator, whoever he is".
"I have confidence in the word of the president. We will get our rights," she said.
Suleiman al-Assad allegedly killed al-Sheikh after the colonel reportedly overtook him at a crossroads.
Al-Sheikh's brother Nasser, who was with the colonel at the time of his death, told 'Al-Watan' he witnessed the victim being "killed in cold blood because he did not give way in a traffic jam".
Iranian warships were docked along the Syrian coast yesterday in a fresh round of brinkmanship designed to demonstrate Tehran's unwavering support for its increasingly isolated ally, amid fears the uprising could escalate into a regional showdown.