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Special adviser to Syrian President Assad dies following car crash under unclear circumstances

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DAMASCUS (AP) — A close adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad has died after a car accident left her hospitalized for four days, the president’s office said Friday in a statement.

Luna al-Shibl, a former journalist, had worked as the director of Assad’s political and media offices and as a special adviser to the president. She was slapped with U.S. sanctions in 2020 along with five other Syrian military, government and financial officials, and later was also sanctioned by the United Kingdom.

Syria’s state-run news agency SANA reported Tuesday that al-Shibl had been in an accident that “caused the car she was in to swerve off the road, and she was subjected to several collisions.” She was hospitalized in Damascus and admitted to intensive care with “severe injuries” including a head hemorrhage.

The U.K.-based opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at the time that another car had hit al-Shibl and its driver was arrested. Official statements on the crash did not mention another car.

Al-Shibl initially rose to regional prominence as an anchor for Al Jazeera, but left the Qatar-based news network in 2011 following the outbreak of the Syrian anti-government protests that spiraled into a civil war after the Assad government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators. Al Jazeera took a stance supportive of the Syrian opposition.

Al-Shibl was formerly married to Sami Kleib, a prominent Lebanese journalist with a wide following around the Middle East.

Assad’s office said in a statement that “the Presidency extends its sincere condolences and sympathy to her family and loved ones.”

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