SARAFAND, Lebanon (AFP) – A Syrian official was assassinated by armed men outside his home in south Lebanon on Wednesday, a Lebanese security official said, in the first such killing in the country.
The victim was Mohammad Darrar Jamo, a pro-regime Syrian political commentator who often appeared on Lebanese television to defend Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
Jamo had lived in Lebanon for 25 years, and headed the political and international relations division of the International Organisation for Arab Immigrants.
The Lebanese security official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said Jamo was killed in the early hours of Wednesday.
"Jamo was shot dead by armed men at about two in the morning as he was about to enter his home in Sarafand where he lives with his Lebanese wife," the official said.
"They shot him with 20 bullets in different parts of his body," he added.
Witnesses said the 44-year-old official was shot as he arrived at his home at around 2:15 am (1115 GMT).
Mohammed, a relative of Jamo, told AFP he saw three gunmen enter the official's building.
"A car was waiting just metres (yards) away from the building for Jamo to return home," Mohammed said.
The neighbours were getting ready to go help, but within minutes they heard the sound of heavy gunfire, he added.
Jamo "parked his car in front of the house, and started to move bags of shopping inside... Moments later I heard the rapid-fire gunshots", his wife, Siham Younis, told reporters in her house.
"I went into the room, and I saw him lying on the ground, covered in blood," Younis added.
She said his "friends in the (ruling) Baath party in Syria had warned him yesterday by phone that he needed to be careful".
His daughter Fatima, 17, was taken to hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown.
Portraits of Lebanese and Syrian officials, including Assad, hung in Jamo's living room.
Jamo's funeral will be held in Damascus, a security source said.
Syrian state news agency SANA also reported the killing, and said Jamo was shot dead "by terrorists" in front of his house in Sarafand in south Lebanon.
Syrian regime officials refer to rebels fighting Assad's forces as "terrorists".
The 28-month-old Syrian conflict has spilled over into Lebanon, which lived through three decades of domination by Damascus.
Lebanon is deeply divided between opponents and supporters of Assad, a rift that has intensified since the open intervention by Lebanon's powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah on the side of the regime.