Beirut, Dec 19: Syria's interior minister suffered a serious back injury in the bombing of his ministry last week and was brought to Beirut today for treatment, Lebanese security officials said.
It was the first confirmation that Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar was wounded in the December 12 bombing in the capital Damascus that killed several people and wounded more than 20.
At the time, state-run Syrian TV said he was not hurt. The security officials asked that their names not be used because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
Also today, government forces were carrying out a broad offensive against rebels trying to topple the regime in the suburbs of Damascus, state media reported. The state-run SANA news agency said that troops have killed “scores of terrorists” the government term for the rebels.
The suburbs of the capital have been opposition strongholds since the uprising started. The rebels have recently made significant advances in in the area, capturing air bases and military installation and clashing with a pro-government Palestinian group for control of the Yarmouk refugee camp, located in the southern part of the capital.
Massive bombings like the one that struck the Interior Ministry have been a trademark of Islamic radicals fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, raising concerns about the extremists' role in the civil war.
Rebels have targeted the centre of Damascus with bomb attacks in the past, most dramatically in July when they detonated explosives inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed four top regime officials, including Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister.
Activists estimate more than 40,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March 2011. SANA said today's fighting was taking place in the capital's southern outskirts of Daraya, Harasta, Douma and Hajar Aswad, an area neighboring the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk.