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Syria's Assad makes rare public appearance for Eid prayers

AFP , Thursday 24 Sep 2015
File Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad at the presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended holiday prayers at a Damascus mosque on Thursday, state media reported, in a rare public appearance for the embattled regime head.

Assad led Eid al-Adha prayers at the Al-Adel mosque with state and ruling Baath party officials as well as a number of Muslim religious leaders and civilians, Syria's official news agency SANA reported.

"Syria knows the real Islam, atop the minarets and in the mosques," Minister of Religious Endowment Ahmed Samer Qabbani said in a sermon quoted by SANA.

"We ask God to defend our country against evil and harm, and to grant success to President Bashar al-Assad," Qabbani said.

In a photograph published on his official Twitter account, Assad appears standing in prayer, flanked by Prime Minister Wael Halaqi and Grand Mufti Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun.

On Wednesday, Assad issued two decrees increasing monthly wages for public sector employees in Syria, in an apparent gesture on the eve of the Muslim holiday.

Since the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011, Assad's few public appearances have been mostly limited to official prayers on feast days.

Damascus has been largely spared the devastation wrought on other Syrian cities by the civil war, although there has been periodic mortar and rocket fire by rebels entrenched in the suburbs.

At least 240,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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