Beirut: Gunmen killed the brother of Syria's parliament speaker in a hail of bullets as he drove to work in Damascus, the state news agency said, as the international envoy for Syria warned the country could become another Somalia.
Mohammed Osama Laham, the brother of Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham, became the latest victim of a wave of assassinations targeting Syrian officials, army officers and other prominent supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime.
Four of the leader's top security officials were killed in a rebel bombing on the state security headquarters in Damascus in July.
Laham was gunned down in the Damascus neighbourhood of Midan, the SANA state news agency said. 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.
UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who, like his predecessor Kofi Annan has been unable to put an end to the 19-month-old civil war, called the events in Syria a "big catastrophe." In remarks published today in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, he said international efforts now are focused on getting a "binding resolution by the (UN) 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 conflict 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-Qaeda.
Syria, in comparison to Somalia, has always had a strong central government, and despite the loss of large swathes of territory to rebels in recent months, the government still maintains its grip on many parts of the country including Damascus, the seat of Assad's power, where basic government services still function.
But if the Syrian regime collapses, the country could fast shatter along multiple fault lines, leading to a protracted bloodshed.