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Al Assad regime calls for ‘million man prayers’

President shown live on television offering prayers for an Islamic holiday

Gulf News

Beirut: Syrian authorities have called for “million man prayers” at mosques on Friday to appeal for the re-establishment of security in the country, ravaged by 22 months of bloodshed, a minister said.

“Prayers will be held after Friday services in Syria’s mosques with the appeal for a return to security and safety in the homeland,” Minister of Religious Endowments Mohammad Abdul Settar said in a statement.

Syria “will prevail against the conspiracy launched by hostile states, carried out by their proxies and slaves, and led by Wahhabi infidels from abroad,” he said in the statement released on Thursday by state news agency Sana.

On Thursday Syria’s embattled President Bashar Al Assad was shown on state television attending prayers at a mosque in a northern district of Damascus to mark the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) birthday.

He was shown in a live broadcast kneeling in Al Afram mosque flanked by Syria’s mufti, the highest religious authority in the country, and the religious endowments minister.

The last time Al Assad appeared in public was for a rare speech to supporters on January 6, in which he dismissed calls for his removal and said he had no partners with whom to negotiate.

Also on Thursday, Syrian warplanes bombed rebel-held areas near Damascus as regime troops battled opposition fighters for control of a strategic road that links the capital with the main airport.

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighter jets carried out eight airstrikes on Daraya, a strategic suburb close to a key military air base southwest of Damascus. The group also said heavy fighting was going on Thursday near the Damascus International Airport, and that the regime was shelling the town of Aqraba along the airport road.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian foreign minister has said that around 20,000 Syrian refugees have fled to the country in the last seven days due to escalating violence in southern Syria, the fastest influx since the start of the uprising two years ago.

— Reuters and AP