A suicide bombing in Syria killed 42 people during a blast at a mosque in the capital city, Thursday (March 21). Sunni Muslim leader, Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti was among the casualties killed at the Eman Mosque.
Al-Buti , 84, was a longtime supporter of President Bashar Asaad. He was holding a religious service at the time of the explosion, which marked the first time that a bomber carried out the act inside a mosque.
The Associated Press reports:
Syrian TV said 84 people were wounded in the explosion and showed footage of wounded people and bodies with severed limbs on the blood-stained floor and later, bodies covered in white body bags lined up in rows. Sirens wailed through the capital as ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion, which was sealed off by the military.
Among those killed were al-Buti’s grandson, the TV said.
Al-Buti’s death was a big blow to Syria’s embattled leader, who is fighting mainly Sunni rebels seeking his ouster. Al-Buti has been a vocal supporter of his regime since the early days of Assad’s father and predecessor, the late President Hafez Assad. Sunnis are the majority sect in Syria while Assad is from the minority Alawite sect — an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
He was the regular preacher of the eighth century Omayyad Mosque, but Syrian TV said he was giving a religious sermon to students at Eman Mosque when the explosion occurred.
In recent months, Syrian TV has carried his sermon from mosques in Damascus live every week. He also has a regular religious TV program.
Syrian TV began its evening newscast with a phone announcement from the religious endowments minister, Mohammad Abdelsattar al-Sayyed, declaring al-Buti’s “martyrdom” as his voice choked up. It then showed parts of his sermon last Friday in which he praised the military for battling the “mercenaries” and said Syria was being subjected to a “universal conspiracy.”
Although it has not been confirmed, the blast may have been fueled by Al-Buti’s allegiance to Asaad. Unrest led by rebels fighting against the president’s regime, has contributed to an ongoing war, which has claimed the lives 70,000 people, according to the United Nations.
As discrepancies between conflicting sides continue in Middle Eastern countries, President Obama made his first trip to Israel since taking office. During the four-day trip, he will tour several different areas of the country, and planned to speak with leaders about the situation in Syria.
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Photos: AP/Aleppo Media Center, AMC/SANA/