Syrian defense minister killed in rebel blast

Syria’s defense minister was killed in a bomb blast for which Syrian opposition forces are taking responsibility, according to reports.

Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha and deputy defense minister Assef Shawkat, the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar Assad, were both killed in the attack in Damascus, according to Syrian state media.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday that the situation in Syria was "spinning out of control" as fighting in the country was escalating, speaking at a Pentagon news conference.

The Associated Press reported that Syria’s rebel commander, Riad al-Asaad, said his forces carried out the attack by planting a bomb inside a room where the senior government officials met on Wednesday.

He denied it was a suicide attack, as the state media had reported, in a telephone interview with the AP.

Rajha is the highest-ranking Syrian official killed since the conflict there broke out last year, and it is a blow to Assad’s attempt to hold onto power in Syria.

The attack could further escalate the violence in Syria, after fighting spilled into Damascus this week.

State television said Syria’s interior minister was also injured in the attack, but was “well and in stable condition,” according to The Wall Street Journal.