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UK's Guardian prints 'Assad family' emails leaked by activists

Files reveal high-heel love, Iran's uprising advice

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Syrian activists have leaked a cache of files that purport to represent the private emails of Bashar al-Assad and his closest associates, sent during the bloody clampdown against opposition activists. Ongoing violence in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people as the government seeks to crush an Arab Spring-inspired uprising.

The haul of 3,000 emails has been partially but not definitively authenticated by The Guardian, which began publishing the revealing electronic messages on Thursday. Highlights of the emails include advice, supposedly given by the Iranian government, on putting down the uprising; an offer of asylum for the al-Assad family in Qatar (should the group decide to flee); discussions about a media strategy; and many emails about shopping.

The emails were sent to accounts at a Dubai-based company, al-Shahba, which maintains a registered office in London, and appears to act as a conduit for much of the al-Assad's business with the outside world, according to The Guardian.

Other information spilled by the cache of emails included supposed conversations between Syria's first lady, Asma al-Assad, and "intermediaries" in London who were instructed to shop the sales at Harrods and other shops as well as ordering gold and diamond jewellery direct from Paris for her. Emails on this front also cover claims to claw back VAT as well as complaints about some goods.

The emails also reveal that, like Imelda Marcus, Asma al-Assad appears to have something of a preoccupation with shoes. One of the emails included a discussion on the merits of a pair of crystal-encrusted 16cm high heels costing £3,795 between the "first lady" and her friends.

The Guardian explained that it received the emails after a "government mole" passed on the login details and email address used by al-Assad and his wife to opposition activists in March 2011. The handover allegedly took place at a private firm used by the ruling family around the same time an uprising against the al-Assad regime began. The details - scribbled on a piece of paper - made their way to "two Syrian professionals in a Gulf state" who apparently realised their possible significance in June. Over the next eight months, activists were able to surreptitiously snoop on emails sent via the two accounts, The Guardian reports.

The emails also appeared to reveal that the Assads used a "third party with a US address to make purchases of music and apps from Apple's iTunes", the Graun added.

None of the emails were encrypted. Bashar al-Assad apparently deleted message soon after he had read them, while his wife left the messages hanging around longer, making life easier for the eavesdroppers.

A January hack by Anonymous against the Syrian ministry of public affairs revealed around 80 email addresses stored on the ministry's server, including the sam@alshahba.com email address purported to have been used by al-Assad. Soon after the hack, the email address became the recipient of abusive emails – leading the user of the account to abandon the address. ®

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