State media have denied growing rumors that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is either dead or experiencing serious health problems.
Media outlets are abuzz with claims that Assad is either dead or has suffered a stroke.
The Syrian government issued a statement saying Assad was in “excellent health and carrying out his functions quite naturally”, even though he has not been seen in public in several days.
Sources within Assad’s government claim that the rumors were started by his opponents in an attempt to create unrest.
The rumors have certainly surfaced at a time when the tide of war was turning in Assad’s favor.
The Mail Online reports:
The Lebanese newspaper, al-Mustaqbal, said ‘reliable sources’ had told them Assad, 51, had suffered a cerebral infarction and was being treated in a hospital in Damascus amid high security.
Al-Arabiya said a Saudi newspaper, Okaz, had claimed Assad was suffering from a ‘brain tumour’ and was being treated by a Russian and Syrian medical team.
But Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted the president’s office in Damascus as saying rumours about his health were ‘absolutely incorrect’ and he was working as normal.
Assad’s office said the Syrian people had become ‘immune against such lies’ and made dark insinuations about who was behind the claims.
Russian blogger Navsteva added: ‘Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya spreading rumours Assad suffered a stroke, was shot by his Iranian bodyguard, and is dead.’
Saudi Arabia supported Sunni Muslim rebels when they first rose up in 2011 against Assad, who is from the Alawite minority and has close links with Shia Iran and Lebanese-based Hezbollah.
Earlier in the month the Saudi-owned daily Asharq al-Awsat, based in London, claimed the Syrian leader’s mental health was deteriorating because of the ‘psychological pressures’ of Syria’s civil war.
But SANA said the spreading of ‘unfounded claims’ coincided with a change in the balance of power in Syria, after the Assad regime recaptured Aleppo in November, and said the health rumours were ‘hopes in the imagination of those who made them up’.
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