DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — President Bashar Assad on Tuesday reshuffled the generals at the core of his regime's highly secretive security apparatus after last week's bombing that killed four top officials charged with fighting the tenacious rebellion rocking the country, an official said.
The shakeup comes as the Syrian regime is fighting to regain the upper hand in its battle with rebels who recently have taken the fight to the heart of government power with attacks on the capital Damascus and the country's largest city of Aleppo.
The government official said that Assad appointed Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, the former head of General Intelligence, to the key post of head of the National Security Council. His predecessor, Maj. Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, died of wounds sustained in the bombing, a government official said.
Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah Qudsiyeh, the former head of Military Intelligence, was named the council's deputy chief, replacing a general who was apparently fired. The EU has imposed sanctions on Qudsiyeh for his role in the crackdown on the uprising.
Assad also appointed his longtime aide and former Damascus security chief Maj. Gen. Rostom Ghazali the head of the Political Security Department. Maj. Gen. Deeb Zeitoun, who once held that job, will now be head of General Intelligence.
The new head of Military Intelligence is now Maj. Gen. Rafiq Shehadeh, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Last week's bomb attack struck a sharp blow to the regime's top brass, though government troops have now largely routed rebel forces fighting in the capital using heavy weapons such as artillery and attack helicopters. Since the bombing residents have reported government forces using a heavier hand to combat the insurgents in the cities.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss security matters.