Syrian intelligence chief killed in Deir al-Zour

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Gen Jamaa Jamaa (file)
Image caption,
Gen Jamaa was reportedly head of Military Intelligence in Deir al-Zour province

A senior Military Intelligence officer has been killed in eastern Syria, state media and activists say.

State television reported on Thursday that Gen Jamaa Jamaa had died while "carrying out his national duties" and "pursuing terrorists" in Deir al-Zour.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said he was shot by a sniper during clashes between government and rebel forces in the city's Rashdiya district.

Gen Jamaa was close to President Bashar al-Assad, the UK-based group added.

He was commander of Syrian Military Intelligence's headquarters in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, when former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated there in 2005.

Gen Jamaa was questioned as part of a UN inquiry into the killing after the Syrian withdrawal. Damascus has always denied any involvement, although five members of the allied Lebanese Shia Islamist group Hezbollah have been indicted.

In 2006, the US Treasury named Gen Jamaa as a Specially Designated National, saying he had "significantly contributed to the Syrian government's military and security presence in Lebanon".

Al-Arabiya TV reported that at the time of his death Gen Jamaa was head of Military Intelligence in Deir al-Zour province, and was one of the most powerful security officials in the country.

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Activists say there have been fierce clashes in Deir al-Zour city in recent days

The Aisha bin al-Sadiq Brigade said one of its fighters had shot him.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory said he was killed during clashes between troops and members of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, and Liwa al-Fatihun min Ard al-Sham. Al-Nusra fighters also executed 10 soldiers captured during the fighting, it added.

There were reportedly air strikes and fierce clashes overnight in several districts of Deir al-Zour after state television reported Gen Jamaa's death.

Another 20 soldiers and seven rebels died on Friday during an assault on air-defence base near the towns of Hujaira and Obaida, in the northern province of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory.

At least 19 people, including 10 children, were killed when shells hit a vehicle and a residential building in Tal Aran, also in Aleppo province, on Friday, the group added. The town is not far from the al-Safira military complex, which is believed to house a major chemical weapons facility.