The Latest: Syria’s Assad reshuffles Cabinet
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):
Syrian President Bashar Assad has reshuffled his Cabinet, replacing nine officials including the minister in charge of internal security.
Cabinet reshuffles like the one announced Monday are not uncommon in Syria and have occurred on several occasions since the civil war began seven years ago.
It was not immediately why Assad replaced longtime Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar, who was wounded in a 2012 bombing that killed four top security officials.
Al-Shaar was replaced by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khaled Rahmoun, who headed the powerful Political Security Directorate, one of the main intelligence agencies in the country.
The U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on Rahmoun, 61, last year.
Other ministers changed include those of tourism, education, public works, telecommunications and industry.
Syrian activists say four days of fighting between U.S.-backed forces and Islamic State militants have left scores dead on both sides.
The latest round of fighting broke out Friday when IS gunmen took advantage of fog to launch an offensive from the last area they control in Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 92 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and 61 militants have been killed since.
Omar Abou Leila, who monitors the war in Deir el-Zour from Europe, said Monday that dozens of SDF fighters were killed.
SDF fighters launched an offensive on Sept. 10 under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition to liberate the last pocket held by IS near the Iraqi border. They have made little progress since then.
The chief of the global chemical weapons watchdog says the organization is considering sending inspectors to investigate an alleged poison gas attack in Syria.
Fernando Arias, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said on Monday that officials at the Hague-based watchdog have been in touch with U.N. experts “to assess the security situation on the ground for a possible deployment” of a fact-finding mission to Syria.
Syria’s Arab News Agency, SANA, said the alleged chemical attack late on Saturday was carried out by “terrorist groups positioned in Aleppo countryside” that fired shells containing toxic gases on three neighborhoods in Syria’s largest city, injuring dozens.
The OPCW’s fact-finding mission is tasked with investigating alleged chemical attacks in Syria and reporting back to the organization and United Nations.