BEIRUT, March 23 A cousin of Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad was killed on Sunday in battles with Islamist
rebels near the border with Turkey, activists and state media
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Hilal al-Assad,
local head of the National Defence Force militia, and seven of
his fighters were killed in clashes with the Nusra Front and
other Islamist brigades.
State television confirmed Assad's death, describing him as
the head of the National Defence Force in the coastal province
of Latakia, where the Assad family originates.
The National Defence Force is a militia set up to support
the army in its three-year battle with rebels seeking to
overthrow Bashar al-Assad.
The Observatory also reported that rebels fired two rockets
into the port city of Latakia, which is the main hub for
operations to ship out Syria's chemical weapons for destruction
under a deal reached with the United States and Russia.
It said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
(Reporting By Dominic Evans; Editing by Tom Heneghan)