Published May 18, 2013
DAMASCUS, Syria – Gunmen on Saturday abducted the elderly father of Syria's deputy foreign minister, his office and a Lebanese TV station said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Armed Syrian opposition groups have targeted top officials in President Bashar Assad's regime and their families in the past.
The father of Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was seized Saturday in the village of Ghossom in the southern Daraa province, Mekdad's office said. An official in the office said the man is in his 80s, but he did not know his name.
The abduction was also reported by Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, which has several reporters in Syria and is seen as sympathetic to the regime.
Last year, rebels carried out one of the most high-level attacks against regime officials to date, detonating a bomb inside a high-level crisis meeting that killed four advisers of Assad, including the defense minister.
The uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011 and escalated into a civil war that has left tens of thousands dead and several million displaced.
Lack of unity among rebel fighters has characterized the armed conflict from the start, and there were new signs Saturday that infighting is on the rise.
Activists on Saturday reported a wave of tit-for-tat kidnappings between rival Islamic militant groups in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, after clashes killed at least four militants.
The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said a coalition of rebel groups known as the Judicial Council had accused another armed opposition faction, the Ghurabaa al-Sham, of plundering factories in Aleppo's industrial neighborhood. Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a former commercial center, is split between rebel and government control.
Any internal fighting between rebels in the city would play into the hands of the regime, which is trying to tarnish the image of the opposition by saying it is dominated by extremists linked to al-Qaida network.
Aleppo, a city of 3 million that was once a bastion of support for President Bashar Assad, has been engulfed in heavy fighting since rebels launched an assault there in July and captured several neighborhoods. Over the past few weeks, regime forces have been pursuing an offensive in the city, mainly focused on pushing the rebels from around the international airport and a nearby military air base.