DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- A cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been arrested over accusations of shooting to death a military colonel during an apparent road-rage incident.
Suleiman al-Assad was arrested in the northwestern Latakia province at a farm and faces an investigation over the alleged murder of Col. Hassan Sheikh, according to the SANA state-run news agency. Suleiman is a local militia leader and a cousin once removed of Syrian President al-Assad.
On Saturday, dozens of government supporters gathered in Latakia calling for the arrest and execution of Suleiman. The announced arrest of an Assad family member is unusual. Suleiman al-Assad previously denied involvement in the killing that reportedly took place Thursday, which prompted further anger from Syrians, according to The Washington Post.
More than 230,000 people have died and millions more have been displaced in Syria's four-year long civil war. The Latakia province has firmly supported the Assad regime since the conflict began, partly because the region is populated by the Alawite sect of Islam, which the Assad family belongs to.