DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian forces raided a suspected terrorist hideout near the capital, killing two men, arresting a third and foiling alleged bombing plots that targeted the nation's Justice Palace (search), the official news agency reported.
A member of the Syrian security forces was killed and another was wounded in the Thursday clash in the Daff al-Shouk suburb of Damascus (search), according to a late Friday report by SANA.
The group's leader, Abu Omar, and an accomplice were killed and another suspect was arrested, SANA said. Identity cards were found alongside the bodies in the names of Omar Barakat and Arfan Yassin, both Syrian. It was not clear whether the cards belonged to the dead men.
The previously unknown group called itself Jund al-Sham for Jihad and Tawhid (search).
State-run Syrian TV showed footage from the scene of the confrontation in a rented apartment. The bloodied bodies of two men lay on the floor, one of them partially covered with a blanket. Machine guns, pistols, Jihadist documents and communications equipment, including mobile telephones, were scattered on the floor.
A picture on a Saudi driver's license belonging to Yassin showed a bespectacled man with a black, bushy beard. Next to it lay U.S. dollars and Syrian pounds.
One document described the hierarchy of the group, including emirs in charge of fighters, explosives, missiles and military training. The group also had a civil battalion brigade responsible for kidnappings and assassinations.
One document said the group's jihad should start with countries in the region that are under "despotic regimes," such as Syria, "Christian Maronite" Lebanon — the president in the neighboring country is always Maronite Catholic — and Hashemite Jordan.
Attention then should be directed at "the dictators" in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq, whose "people have been afflicted with the Crusaders," the document said.
SANA said security forces received information several months ago that the group was planning to carry out bombings in an attempt to destabilize security in Damascus and its suburbs. Security forces began surveillance of the group after receiving that information.
SANA said Syrian security troops had earlier discovered and detonated a roadside bomb on the Damascus-Zabadani road.
Terrorist attacks are rare in this tightly controlled Arab country. In April, two gunmen, a policeman and a passer-by died in a clash with security forces in a diplomatic quarter of Damascus.
The attackers are said to have detonated a bomb and then engaged in a 90-minute shootout with police. An abandoned U.N. building took the brunt of the fighting.
That incident was initially described by the Syrian government as a terrorist attack but officials later said the attack was a homegrown, isolated incident.
Meanwhile, a human rights group said four suspected Syrian Islamists had been arrested.
Muhammad al-Imadi, 33, disappeared in August after a "routine" visit to the offices of political security, according to the Human Rights Association in Syria. Shortly afterward, witnesses reported that he was hospitalized "in critical condition," the statement said.
It said al-Imadi was suspected of using the Internet to get in touch with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Two of his friends, Abdul-Samad al-Jaja and Firas Hamoud, disappeared with him, the statement said.
Radwan al-Issa, 46, who entered Syria illegally through Turkey, was arrested in Damascus in April on suspicion of extremist activities, the statement said.