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Syria's Assad replaces powerful ‘torture chief’ in security shake-up

Assad’s security shake-up reportedly extends to a notorious intelligence head responsible for torture [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 July, 2019

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President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly replaced heads of security agencies, including Jamil Hassan, who ran the notorious intelligence Air Force Intelligence and is wanted for crimes against humanity in Germany.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has replaced some heads of influential security agencies, including Maj. Gen. Jamil Hassan, who has headed the powerful Air Force Intelligence Directorate since 2009, pro-government Syrian pages on social media reported on Sunday.

Several pages, including Latakia Eagles and Homs Network Live, reported that Hassan was replaced by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Ismail.

The pro-regime pages said the General Intelligence Directorate is now headed by Maj. Gen. Hussam Louqa, while Maj. Gen. Nasser al-Ali is now in charge of the Political Security Directorate. Bahjat Suleiman, a former intelligence chief and former ambassador to Jordan, also listed the names on his Facebook page and Twitter account.

No reason was given for the shake-up, which came as regime forces made little progress in a two-month-old offensive against rebels in the northwestern province of Idlib as part of attempts to recapture wide areas of the country in recent years.

There was no immediate confirmation from regime or state media, which rarely report news related to intelligence agencies.

Hassan had been one of the most powerful officers in the country, heading the notorious Air Force Intelligence agency and was accused of torturing prisoners and committing other atrocities during the eight year Syrian conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Hassan was one of 13 Syrian commanders and prison officials that the United States said in 2016 were responsible for attacks on cities, residential areas and civilian infrastructure as well as acts of torture. The US and the European Union had imposed sanctions on Hassan because of his role in the crackdown.

Last year, Germany said it was seeking Hassan’s arrest, saying his intelligence agency was suspected to have been involved in crimes against humanity. The evidence against Hassan included photos of gruesome torture scenes taken by a regime defector known as Caesar.

Earlier this year, there were reports that Germany asked Lebanon to hand over Hassan while he was being treated in a hospital run by the militant Hizballah group, which has sent fighters to Syria to help Assad’s forces.

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