The Defence Minister and the brother-in-law of Syrian President Assad have reportedly been killed in a suicide bomb attack in the capital of Damascus.
Reuters says Syrian Television has just gone on the air to say Defence Minister General Dawoud Rajha is dead, along with the senior intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, who is also President Assad's brother-in-law. Syria's Interior Minister has been injured in a suicide bombing at a meeting of government ministers, according to local reports.
Citing Reuters, RT reports the suicide bomber worked as a bodyguard for President Assad's inner circle.
Liwa Al-Islam, a Syrian rebel Islamist group, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on Facebook.
Reuters also quotes activists as saying Republican Guard troops have sealed off a hospital and the National Security building where the attack happened.
These are the highest profile killings of Syrian government officials during the 17-month long conflict. Up until now, lower ranking officials and military officers had been killed or abducted by the armed opposition.