Coronavirus kills businessman uncle of Syria’s Assad

Syrian businessman Mohamad Makhlouf, uncle of President Bashar al-Assad and father of top tycoon Rami Makhlouf, died on Saturday from Covid-19, two sources close to his family told AFP.

Makhlouf, 88, the maternal uncle of Assad, was once seen as a pillar of the regime of Hafez al-Assad, the late father of the current president.

His grandson, also called Mohamad Makhlouf, mourned his death in a message posted on Instagram.

Makhlouf, one of the most prominent Syrian businessmen during the 1970s and 1980s, was taken to hospital in the capital Damascus on August 23, local media reported.

His businesses had already long been handed over to his son Rami, who developed a commercial empire estimated at several billion dollars.

Rami Makhlouf was close to his cousin Assad, but earlier this year they fell out in a power struggle.

Since the start of the pandemic, Syria has officially recorded 3,476 cases of Covid-19, with 150 deaths registered in zones controlled by the Damascus government, according to health ministry figures.

The novel coronavirus has added to the woes of a nation ravaged by civil war since 2011.

More than 380,000 people have died in the conflict. (AFP)