Syria Denies Attack on President Bashar Assad

BEIRUT (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

The Syrian government strenuously denied unsubstantiated reports Thursday that rebels had attacked a motorcade carrying President Bashar Assad in Damascus, the capital.

“The news is completely baseless and a mere reflection of the wishes and illusions of some media outlets and the governments standing behind them,” Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in a statement.

Several Arab-language news services carried word of the alleged attack, based on statements from opposition representatives. But there was no independent confirmation of any strike on Assad’s motorcade.

The Syrian president was pictured on state media Thursday getting into a car and attending services at a mosque in Damascus celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Ramadan fasting period. Assad appeared unruffled.

Both sides in the more than two-year Syrian military conflict have also engaged in a parallel propaganda war. Each side has tended to exaggerate its battlefield victories and downplay any losses. Both the government and the opposition have made extensive use of social media tools to push their agendas.

An attack on Assad’s motorcade in the heart of the Syrian capital would be a public relations coup for the opposition, which has been pushed back from the capital by Syrian forces in recent weeks. The government’s quick and robust response denying any attack underscored authorities’ desire to put an end to speculation both inside and outside Syria.