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Who was Luna al-Shibl, adviser to Syria's Assad who died in car crash?

Shibl, a former Al Jazeera journalist, was a key adviser to Assad who accompanied the Syrian president on international trips including China.
Luna al-Shibl in an undated photo.

Prominent Syrian media adviser Luna al-Shibl died on Friday following a car crash earlier this week, prompting conspiracy theories that her death was related to disputes involving the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian presidency announced Shibl’s death on Friday evening local time and expressed its condolences to her family.

The presidency said on Wednesday that Shibl had been involved in a car accident in Damascus the day before. According to the official report, the car swerved off the road and “experienced several collisions.” Shibl sustained serious injuries including head hemorrhage and taken to the intensive care in a Damascus hospital, the official news outlet SANA reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization close to the opposition, reported that Shibl's car veered off the road after colliding with another vehicle. They added that the other driver has been arrested.

Who was Shibl? Shibl, 48, was a Syrian journalist and adviser. She became Assad’s media adviser in 2011 at the start of the Syrian uprising and the government’s violent crackdown on protesters. She previously worked for Al Jazeera. The Qatari state media outlet was critical of the Assad government and sympathetic to the rebels in the early years of the war.

Shibl ultimately became a part of Assad’s inner circle and accompanied him to high-level meetings in Syria and trips overseas. 

In September of last year, Shibl traveled with Assad to China — his first visit since 2004 — SANA reported at the time.

Shibl and her husband, Ammar Saati, were sanctioned by the United States in 2020. The US Treasury Department said at the time that she was “instrumental in developing Assad's false narrative that he maintains control of the country and that the Syrian people flourish under his leadership.”

What Syrian media is saying: Shibl’s death has prompted considerable speculation in Syrian media. The Turkey-based Syria TV reported on Friday that Shibl’s car had been hit by an armored vehicle.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that Shibl’s role had been limited for a month at the time of her death due to Iranian dissatisfaction with her allegedly leaking information on Assad and Syrian officials’ meetings with Iran to Russia.

On Wednesday, the pro-opposition organization reported that Syrian intelligence services had arrested Shibl’s brother, Brig. Gen. Mulham Al-Shibl, on the charge of communicating with the enemies following the Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus in April.

The observatory added that Saati was fired from his professor position at Damascus University in early June and that there are corruption cases against him.