Conflict & Justice

Gunmen abduct father of Assad spokesman Faisal Mekdad


Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad (R) receives Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in Damascus on March 24, 2008.


Louai Beshara

Unidentified gunmen abducted the elderly father of Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, a vocal spokesman of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Mekdad's father, reportedly in his 80s, was taken Saturday from his village in the southern province of Daraa, where an undeclared cessation of mutual kidnappings had been agreed on Friday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights, a pro-opposition watchdog group that monitors Syria's civil war, posted on its Facebook page that "regime forces have since detained relatives of a suspect thought to be involved in the kidnapping."

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, and according to the Observatory, "rebel battalions and factions have denied responsibility of the action," though they have targeted officials' families before.

A Syrian government source, who spoke to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, confirmed news of the abduction.

"Today armed men abducted Mr. Mekdad's father from his home in the village of Ghossom," the source said. "They beat him up in front of his family then took him to Daraa city."

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory, told Agence France-Presse that Mekdad's father had been seized "in reprisal for the arrest by regime forces of relatives of one of the armed men."

Earlier this week the United Nations estimated at least 80,000 people have died in Syria's civil war, with most of the causalities believed to be civilians. About 4.25 million have been displaced, and hundreds of thousands are now refugees living in camps in neighboring nations.