22 Mar 2013

Pro-Assad cleric killed in mosque explosion

11:20 am on 22 March 2013

An explosion at a mosque in the Syrian capital has killed at least 42 people including a senior pro-government Muslim cleric and dozens more have been injured.

State media say Sheikh Mohammed al-Buti died in the attack on the Iman mosque in central Damascus where he was preaching.

The Free Syrian Army, the umbrella group for the rebel forces, said it was not responsible for the attack, the BBC reports.

State media said the blast, in the Mazraa district, was carried out by a suicide bomber who had slipped inside the mosque.

Mr Buti, 84, was killed as he was delivering religious lessons at the mosque, it said. His grandson was also reportedly killed.

He was a Sunni Muslim - the majority sect in Syria, who have led the uprising against Mr Assad - but had been a vocal supporter of the president.

Mr Buti regularly preached on Syrian television and had urged Syrians to support the army against the rebels.