[QODLink]
Middle East

'Top pro-regime cleric killed' in Syria blast

Suicide attack inside Damascus mosque kills Sunni cleric Dr Mohammed al-Bouti, leaving at least 42 dead and 84 wounded.
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2013 04:17

A senior pro-government Sunnia cleric is among dozens of people killed in a suicide attack in the Syrian capital after a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque.

Dr Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, a longtime supporter of President Bashar al-Assad and Imam of Damascus' historic Ummayyad Mosque, was killed in the explosion in the Iman Mosque in the central Mezzeh district.

"The number of those martyred in the terrorist suicide attack in the Iman Mosque rises to 42 martyrs with 84 injured," a bulletin on state television said, citing the country's health ministry.

Syrian TV said among those killed were Bouti's grandson.

Television footage showed wounded people and bodies with severed limbs on the bloodstained floor of the mosque.

Ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion, which was sealed off by the military.

Major blow

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, president of the opposition National Coalition, condemned the blast, saying he suspected the regime was behind the attack.

"This is a crime by any measure that is completely rejected," he told the AFP news agency in Cairo by telephone.

Bouti's death is a major blow to Syria's embattled leader, who is fighting mainly Sunni rebels seeking his overthrow.

The cleric, believed to be in his 90s, has been a vocal supporter of his regime since the early days of Assad's father and predecessor, the late President Hafez Assad.

In recent months, Syrian TV has carried Bouti's sermon from mosques in Damascus live every week. He also hosts a regular religious television programme.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, the capital of neighbouring Lebanon, said: "We know that in the past years, he's [Bouti] been a prominent cleric against the Muslim Brotherhood movement, so for the regime, his death is a loss."

282

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Topics in this article
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
'I'm dying anyway, one piece at a time' said Steve Fobister, who suffers from disabilities caused by mercury poisoning.
The world's newest professional sport comes from an unlikely source: video games.
The group's takeover of farms in Qaraqosh, 30km from Mosul, has caused fear among residents, and a jump in food prices.
Protests and online activism in recent months have brought a resurgence of ethnic Oromo nationalism in Ethiopia.
Chemotherapy is big business, but some US doctors say it could be overused and are pushing for cheaper and better care.
join our mailing list