DAMASCUS : The mother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Anissa Makhlouf al-Assad, died on Saturday at the age of 86, state media reported.

The former first lady and widow of ex-president Hafez al-Assad died in a hospital in the capital Damascus, the official SANA news agency reported.

The agency did not give a cause of death, but according to sources who were close to Anissa she had been ill for many years and had often travelled to Germany for treatment prior to 2012. That year, the European Union included her on a list of dozens of Syrian figures, including Assad and other family members, slapping her with an asset freeze and travel ban.Throughout Syria's nearly five-year war and even when her husband Hafez ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years, she had kept a low profile and was rarely mentioned in the media.

Born in Latakia in 1930, Anissa married Hafez al-Assad in 1957 and they had five children.

Two of them have died - Bassel who was being groomed to become president and Majd. Anissa is survived by Bashar, his younger brother Maher and their sister Bushra.