A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 19, 2012 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attending Eid al-Fitr payers in Damascus. AFP PHOTO / HO-SANA == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / SANA" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == © - - AFP
Last updated: August 20, 2012

Assad appears in public for Eid prayers

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad joined prayers at a Damascus mosque Sunday for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, as his forces reportedly pressed on with a deadly assault against rebels.

State television aired footage of Assad with several top government and ruling Baath party officials, including Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi, who took office only this month after the defection of his predecessor.

"Syria will triumph against the Western-American plot being supported by the Wahhabis and takfiris (Sunni Muslim religious hardliners)," declared the imam at the Al-Hamad mosque, Sheikh Mohammed Kheir Ghantus.

"Our enemies among the Americans, the Zionists and their agents should be rejoicing to see us killing each other and sowing discord among us," he said.

Activists say over 23,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March last year, while the UN puts the death toll at around 17,000.

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