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Syria's Assad in rare public appearance for Muslim holiday

AFP , Friday 17 Jul 2015
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (2nd L) attends Eid al-Adha prayers at al-Nu'man bin Bashir mosque in Damascus October 4, 2014, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA. (Photo: Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance on Friday for holiday prayers at a Damascus mosque, state media reported.

Assad attended morning prayers at the Al-Hamad mosque in northwest Damascus on Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, the SANA news agency reported.

He was accompanied by "high-ranking officials from the (ruling Baath) party and from the state," it added.

Photographs published by the news agency showed a smiling Assad surrounded by religious figures.

A photograph published by the president's official Twitter account showed him kneeling in prayer beside other officials.

The mosque's imam, Sheikh Mohammad Sharif al-Sawaf, "prayed to God to save Syria, its leader, its army and its people, and to bring victory against its enemies".

"The Syrian army will continue to defend the country," Sawaf said in his sermon, SANA reported.

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

Assad has made few public appearances since the uprising against his rule erupted in March 2011.

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