Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

November 6, 2012

Brother of Syrian parliament speaker assassinated

BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen killed the brother of Syria's parliament speaker as he drove to work in Damascus on Tuesday, the state-run news agency reported, as the international envoy for Syria warned the country could become another Somalia.

Mohammed Osama Laham, brother of Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham, was killed in the Damascus neighborhood of Midan, the SANA news agency said.

It was the latest in a wave of assassinations targeting Syrian officials, army officers and other prominent supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime. Four of the president's top security aides were killed in a rebel bombing of state security headquarters in Damascus on July 18.

The killing came a day after some of the most intense fighting in Damascus in months as rebels wage a civil war to unseat Assad.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said what is happening in Syria is a "big catastrophe." In remarks published Tuesday in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, he said the international efforts now are focused on getting a "binding resolution by the (U.N.) Security Council" to start a political process that will lead to change.

"I don't want to go too far in pessimism, but the situation in Syria is very dangerous. The Syrian people are suffering a lot," Brahimi said. "I believe that if the crisis is not solved in a right way, there will be the danger of Somalization. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of war lords and militias."

The east African nation of Somalia has been mired in war for two decades after warlords overthrew a longtime dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other. The government, backed by African Union troops, is currently battling Islamist extremist rebels linked to al-Qaida.

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