The brother of al-Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri has been arrested, it was revealed last night.
Mohammed Zawahiri, 59, was seized by Syrian troops as he prepared to meet up with rebels in Darya, outside Damascus.
But Western intelligence fears the arrest could lead to more bloodshed.
A source said: “Zawahiri junior has set himself up as something of a peace maker in the Middle East, although he holds the same ideals as al-Qaeda.
“He believes in the spread of Islam, Sharia law and has supported terrorist acts against the west, justifying them as jihad against oppressors of the Islamic faith.
“This development could well enhance the al-Qaeda leadership’s interest in promoting violence across Syria as Zawahiri junior is well-respected by the network.”
Ayman, 61, took over from Osama bin Laden after he was killed by US Navy SEALs.
He has sworn to support the rebels in their bid to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Assad.
And there are thought to be 1,000 al-Qaeda loyalists helping them in Syria under the banner Jabat al-Nusrah.
Earlier this week it was revealed the UN fears as many as 60,000 have died in the 21-month-old Arab Spring uprising in Syria – much more than the 45,000 previously thought.
Yesterday the Syrian military pounded the outskirts of Damascus and other areas around the country, according to activists.
Warplanes bombed areas around the capital including the rebel stronghold of Douma and Darya. where Zawahiri was seized.
The president of the UN Security Council said there could be a breakthrough soon in the shape of a diplomatic solution to the 21-month war.
There could be further meetings with the US and Russia – which has blocked attempts to sanction President Assad.
However it is thought Assad had no intention of stepping down – a key opposition demand – and it would be impossible to try to persuade him otherwise.
Russia and China have vetoed three security council resolutions aimed at pressuring the Assad government to end the violence.
Story first published: 5th January 2013