Syrian President Bashar al-Assad escaped death or injury when rebels launched a mortar attack on his convoy early Thursday. The incident suggests “the country’s crippling civil war is edging [its way] to its seat of power,” The Guardian reports.

Assad was traveling to a mosque in the Damascus suburb of Malki where he has an office and a home when the attack took place. Residents told The Guardian that at least three mortars or small rockets landed as his motorcade arrived in the Enas bin Malik province at the beginning of the three-day Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr.

It’s not clear whether the convoy was hit. Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi denied the attack had occurred and said Assad was safe and well. But two rebel groups that claimed the attack said there were some casualties and damage to at least one vehicle. Claims from both sides have often directly contradicted each other since the civil war’s beginning in early 2011.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

Malki has remained a relatively safe district of the capital as war has raged nearby. Rebels have proved difficult to dislodge from areas in the south and west of the city that have emerged as opposition strongholds over the past year despite relentless regime counter-attacks.

From areas such as Douma, Yarmouk and Daraya, all within the city limits, a combination of Islamist and mainstream opposition groups have been able to launch attacks on areas that house security buildings and the presidential palace.

The apparent attack on Assad is thought to be the first to target high profile members of the regime since a bomb detonated in a national security building in Damascus in July 2012, where senior officials were holding a planning meeting. That attack, claimed by the opposition, killed Assad’s brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, as well as Syria’s defence minister and several other key officials.

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