Killings of Syrian intellectuals continue with nuclear expert
Engineer is fourth man assassinated since Sunday
BEIRUT - A Syrian nuclear engineer was assassinated in a hail of bullets in central Syria yesterday, the latest casualty in a string of killings this week of academics and scientists, Syria’s state-run news agency and activists said.
SANA said engineer and university professor Aws Khalil was shot in the head by an armed terrorist group operating in Homs, but activists accused the regime of going after academics in an attempt to terrorize the city’s rebellious population.
His killing came as fighting raged in the nearby town of Rastan for the second day between troops trying to enter and army deserters who have switched sides and joined the mass revolt against President Bashar Assad that began in mid-March.
Activists say there are hundreds of soldiers who have defected in Rastan and other areas on the outskirts of Homs. The Local Coordination Committees activist group and London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a defected lieutenant died in yesterday’s clashes.
Khalil is the fourth Syrian academic to be assassinated in Homs since Sunday. The city, a hotbed of dissent against Assad’s autocratic regime, has witnessed some of the largest antigovernment protests since the uprising against Assad began six months ago.
In the past month, it has witnessed almost daily clashes between Syrian troops and army defectors. There also have been increasing reports of attacks on security forces and police patrols by some who have taken up arms to fight the military crackdown.
Mohammed Saleh, an opposition figure in Homs, said Khalil’s assassination is part of a string of killings - all in the same manner - of Syrian academics.
They include Hassan Eid, chief of chest surgery at the Homs hospital who had treated wounded Syrian protesters in the past months.
Also shot dead were professors Nael Dakhil, 54, and Mohammed Aqeel, 49, who was assassinated by bullets that struck his car in Homs.
The dead men came from different religious backgrounds - Shi’ite, Alawite, and Christian - and it unclear whether the killings had any sectarian motives. None of those killed were Sunni, Saleh said.
Syria, like Iraq, has a volatile sectarian divide, making civil unrest a frightening prospect. The Assad regime is dominated by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, but the country is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim.