03/22/2013, 00.00
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Sunni cleric and dozens of worshipers killed in suicide attack on Damascus mosque

Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, moderate Koranic professor, was a supporter of Assad. He was killed during a religious lesson along with his grandson. The opposition rejects all responsibility. But suspicions point to jihadists.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 42 people have been killed in a suicide attack on the Iman mosque in the center of Damascus. Among the victims was a leading Sunni figure Dr. Mohammed Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti (see photo), a supporter of the Assad regime, and his grandson. Another 84 were injured. Al Bouti, 84, was killed as he was holding Koran lessons with his students.

In Syria, the majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, with a good presence of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 80s these radical groups were prosecuted and often eliminated by Hafez el Assad. Al Bouti, a Sunni moderate, supported the policy of Assad and even sung the Koranic prayers during the funeral of his Bashar's father, Hafez, in 2000.

At the announcement of his death, Syrian television aired music and prayers as a sign of mourning. Suspicions over responsibility for his assassination fall on the opposition rebels. Al Bouti, who had plenty of space in the state media, often asked Muslims to support the Assad government and declared oponents as "mercenaries" and "scum."

His fame and the esteem he enjoyed, however, throws a bad light on the opposition. A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army has declined any responsibility for the attack. The President of the Syrian opposition, Ahmed Al-Khati Moaz said that the opposition "categorically condemns the murder."

But suspicions remain on the jihadist fringes fighting in the country.

The Syrian opposition is often confused and divided in its allegations against the regime, to which it has attributed massacres, or criminal actions. A few days ago the opposition accused the army of using chemical weapons against civilians in Aleppo. The regime in turn blamed the opposition.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, condemned the use of chemical weapons and has promised an international inquiry, but many quarters say it will be very difficult to come to any conclusion.



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