Assad cousin in 'road rage' killing: Monitor

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre) attends prayers in Damascus.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (centre) attends prayers in Damascus.REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - A cousin of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has shot dead a senior air force officer in a road rage incident in the Latakia coastal heartland of their minority Alawite community, a monitor said Friday.

Suleiman al-Assad, a first cousin once removed, killed Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh "because he overtook him at a crossroads" on Thursday evening, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Assad "followed him, swerved the car around, got out and shot him dead", said Abdel Rahman, whose group has contacts across war-torn Syria.

He said tensions were running high among Alawites in Latakia, with some calling for Suleiman al-Assad, who has not been arrested, to be punished.

The killer's father, Hilal al-Assad, a first cousin of the President, headed the defence forces in the Mediterranean city before his death in clashes with rebels in nearby Kasab in March 2014.

Thursday's incident took place as rebel groups allied with Al-Qaeda fight to advance on a key military headquarters in a region only 30km to the east of Latakia.