Rifaat al-Assad

Rifaat Al-Assad

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Rifaat al-Assad

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Rifaat al-Assad () (born 1937) is the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafiz al-Assad, and the uncle of the current President Bashar al-Assad, all of whom come from the minority Alawite Muslim sect. He was born in the village of Qardaha, near Lattakia in western Syria. He is perhaps best known for personally overseeing the Hama massacre of 1982. He currently resides in Mayfair, London.

Under Hafez' rule

He played a key role in his brother's takeover of executive power in 1970, dubbed the Corrective Revolution, and ran the elite internal security forces and the Defense Companies (Saraya al-Difaa). He had a pivotal role throughout the 1970s and, until 1984, many saw him as the likely successor to his elder brother.

In February 1982, he commanded the forces that put down a Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the central city of Hama, by instructing his forces to shell the city, killing thousands of its inhabitants (reports range from between 5,000 and 40,000, the most common suggestion being around 15-20,000). This became known as the Hama Massacre. The United States journalist Thomas Friedman claims in his book From Beirut to Jerusalem that Rifaat later bragged that the total number of victims was no less than 38,000.

Attempted coup d'├ętat

When Hafez al-Assad suffered from heart problems in 1983, he established a six-member committee to run the country. Rifaat was not included, and the council consisted entirely of close Sunni Muslim...
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