Where is Bashar Assad?

Deadly bombing in heart of Syrian capital
The Free Syrian Army has claimed responsibility for the bombing that took the lives of at least three top Syrian ministers. As Elizabeth Palmer reports, the opposition offensive has come to the very heart of the Syrian capital.
D. Leal Olivas/AFP/GettyImages

(CBS News) ANTAKYA, Turkey - There were reports Thursday of fresh fighting inside Damascus, five days into what rebel fighters are calling "operation Damascus volcano," and one day after an apparent rebel bomber killed three top Syrian officials in the capital.

Speculation is rampant as to the whereabouts of President Bashar Assad. He hasn't been seen publicly for two weeks, since he did an interview with German television, and he made no direct statement after yesterday's bombing.

Some opposition members say he has left Damascus for the heartland of his Alawite tribe, in the coastal city of Latakia. That claim seems unlikely, however, given that Assad's security apparatus is in Damascus and a move to Latakia would appear as the president conceding his capital and backing away from the fight.

On Thursday, state-run television reported that Assad had attended the swearing-in of his new defense minister, but there were no details as to the location of the ceremony.

Syrian rebels emboldened after assassinations
Top Syrian ministers killed in explosion
Syrian opposition warns Assad's backers

One thing is certain, President Assad finds himself in an uncomfortable position.

He no longer knows who he can trust and the rebel Free Syrian Army is touting the deadly bomb attack at the national security headquarters on Wednesday as a major triumph, even calling it the beginning of the end for the Assad regime.

It is still unclear exactly who carried out the attack, and the rebel forces still face significant challenges.

The regime remains stronger in both number and firepower, and the Free Syrian Army has yet to become a cohesive fighting force with clear command and control.

  • Clarissa Ward
    Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News