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Pro-Assad cleric among 42 killed in Damascus

Pro-Assad cleric among 42 killed in Damascus
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Damascus (AFP): A suicide bomb attack on a central Damascus mosque has killed 42 people including Syria's most prominent pro-regime Sunni cleric,...

jkjkjjDamascus (AFP): A suicide bomb attack on a central Damascus mosque has killed 42 people including Syria's most prominent pro-regime Sunni cleric, wounding dozens of others, the health ministry said. The attack came yesterday as heavy fighting raged across Syria and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon said the United Nations would investigate whether chemical weapons were used in the conflict. The bomber blew himself up inside the Iman Mosque as the cleric Mohamed Al Bouti addressed religious students, in an attack that echoed sectarian violence in Iraq. "The number of those martyred in the terrorist suicide attack in the Iman Mosque rises to 42 martyrs with 84 injured," state television said, citing the health ministry. Bouti was the most senior pro-regime Sunni cleric in Syria. His weekly addresses at Friday prayers were frequently broadcast live on state television. His death was a blow to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has been fighting an insurgency that flared when his forces launched a bloody crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests that erupted in March 2011. The relentless violence has killed thousands of people and caused more than one million to flee their homes as refugees. Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the umbrella opposition National Coalition, condemned the cleric's killing as a 'crime'. He suggested the regime could have been behind it. "We categorically condemn the assassination of the scholar Dr Mohamed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti," Khatib told AFP in Cairo by phone. The regime is dominated by members of the minority Alawite sect and had relied in part on the cleric to bolster its claims to represent all Syrians, including Sunnis, from whom the opposition draws much of its support.
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