BEIRUT —Â Syrian rebels bombed the houseÂ of a top member of the country’s ruling Baath party in the south on Thursday,Â killing him and his three body guards, activists said.
The bombing took place in Daraa, where the uprising against President BasharÂ Assad began in March 2011. Since then, rebels have targeted regime figures andÂ military commanders in the capital, Damascus, and in other places around theÂ country.
The increasing frequency of bombings, a hallmark of Islamic extremists likeÂ Al Qaeda, has led to concerns about the growing role of Islamist militants inÂ the civil war.
Two US-based Internet-monitoring companies say Syria has shut off theÂ Internet nationwide.
Renesys, a U.S.-based network security firm that studies InternetÂ disruptions, says Syria effectively disappeared from the Internet at 12:26 p.m.Â local time.
Akamai Technologies Inc., another U.S-based company that distributes contentÂ on the Internet, also confirmed a complete outage for Syria.
Syria has partially cut Internet connections during the 20-month uprisingÂ against President Bashar Assad but a nationwide shutdown is unprecedented.
Early Thursday, rebels detonated a car bomb near the house of Hussein RifaiÂ in Daraa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, killingÂ Rifai and his bodyguards. The Observatory relies on reports from activists onÂ the ground.
Syria state-run SANA news agency reported the bombing in Daraa. It said thereÂ were casualties in the blast, but did not say if Rafai was among thoseÂ killed.
The bombing in Daraa came a day after twin suicide car bombs ripped through aÂ Damascus suburb minutes apart, killing at least 34 people and wounding more thanÂ 80 others.
Damascus, the seat of Assad’s power, has been the scene of scores of carÂ bombs and mortar attacks targeting state security institutions and troops, areasÂ with homes of wealthy Syrians, army officers, security officials and otherÂ members of the regime.
In May, two suicide car bombers blew themselves up outside a militaryÂ intelligence building in Damascus, killing at least 55 people. In July, a bombÂ hit a building in which Cabinet ministers and senior security officials wereÂ meeting, killing the defense minister and his deputy, who was Assad’sÂ brother-in-law. A former defense minister also died in the attack.
The revolt in Syria started as peaceful protests but turned into a civil warÂ after brutal crackdowns on dissent by Assad’s forces. Activists say more thanÂ 40,000 people have been killed.
Also Thursday, activists reported heavy fighting between rebels and regimeÂ troops in the northern Idlib province.
Government warplanes struck the rebellious districts around Damascus,Â including the suburb of Daraya where fighting has raged for days, as rebelsÂ fight their way into the capital, the Observatory said.
Daraya, which has a population of about 200,000, is part of Rural Damascus, aÂ province that includes the capital’s suburbs and adjoining farmland. The areaÂ has been a stronghold of support for the rebels since the start of the uprising,Â posing a significant threat to Assad.
Source: Fox News