Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013

Deadly mosque attack kills 49 in Damascus

Assad vows to eradicate extremism from Syria

Deadly mosque attack kills 45 in Damascus

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed to “cleanse” his country of extremism yesterday, a day after a suicide bomber killed more than 45 people including a key pro-regime Sunni cleric in a mosque.
The attack was also condemned by the opposition, who raised the possibility that the regime was behind the deadly blast at the Iman Mosque in Damascus on Thursday night.
State news agency SANA said that 49 people had been killed, including Mohamed Saeed al-Bouti, the most prominent Sunni cleric to back Assad’s regime against a Sunni-led uprising.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 46, saying that around 15 of the wounded were in critical condition and the toll was likely to rise.
The attack came as heavy fighting raged across Syria, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the United Nations would investigate whether chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.
Bouti’s death is a blow to Assad’s regime, 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 more than 70,000 people, according to UN figures, and caused more than one million to flee their homes as refugees.
In a statement issued by the presidency, Assad condemned the attack and mourned Bouti’s death, vowing to eradicate “extremism and ignorance” in Syria.
“I swear to the Syrian people that your blood, and that of your grandson and all the martyrs of the homeland, will not be spilled in vain because we will be faithful to your ideas by destroying their extremism and ignorance until we have cleansed the country,” he said.