Jul 18th 2012, 15:59 by The Economist online
SYRIA’S regime is looking increasingly wobbly. State television says a bomb attack on a security building in the capital, Damascus, this morning killed the defence minister, Dawood Rajiha, senior military aide Hassan Turkomani, and Asef Shawkat, perhaps the regime’s main security man and brother-in-law to President Bashar Assad.
A rebel offensive on the city has led to fierce clashes over the past three days, and this latest attack has dealt a blow to the regime’s morale. Lightly-armed opposition fighters have shown surprising resilience against the government’s better-equipped army in the Damascene districts of Midan and Qaboon, bringing the fight right to the seat of power. Today’s blast appears to have hit the coterie of security men that has been directing the crackdown in Syria that has left at least 16,000 dead since March last year. Other security officials, including the national security chief and the interior minister, are reported to have been injured.
Both the Free Syrian Army and an Islamist opposition group have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Some in the capital say the attacker may have been an insider, turning on other members of the regime. Many residents are worried about the likely response from the government, which has put on a show of bravado. It quickly brought in tanks and helicopters to respond to the recent fighting in the capital, sending civilians fleeing. Residents say elite troops have been moved into the city centre to guard the television station and government buildings.