President Bashar al-Assad has extended the military duty of his close advisor Gen. Jamil al-Hassan for another year, delaying the retirement of the head of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate for the seventh time, sources told Zaman al-Wasl.
Hassan, 65, who replaced Abdul Fatah Qudsiya as head of Air Force Intelligence in 2009, was sanctioned by the European Union and the U.S. following the outbreak of the civil war over his role in war crimes against the Syrian people.
Although smaller than Syria’s Military Intelligence, the Air Force Intelligence branch is seen by some as the elite agency of Assad’s intelligence empire, according to the BBC. The agency owes its power to the late president, Hafez al-Assad, who was air force chief before coming to power in a coup. It plays a leading role in operations against Islamist opposition groups, as well as covert actions abroad, and has a reputation for brutality.
Hassan, who like Assad hails from the Alawite sect, previously served as a security official in the eastern province of Deir-ez-Zor.
Although Assad inherited Syria's presidency on his father's death in 2000, analysts believe his grip on power is not absolute. As such the president has surrounded himself with military and intelligence figures, most of whom are either related to Assad or are members of his minority Alawite community.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.