9 Aug 2013

Syria denies Assad motorcade attacked

4:28 pm on 9 August 2013

Syrian authorities have denied media reports of an attack on President Bashar al-Assad's motorcade as he was on his way to a mosque to attend prayers marking the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Several media outlets reported a rocket attack targeted the motorcade as Mr Assad travelled to the mosque in central Damascus to join the prayers that celebrate the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

However, information minister Omran Zoabi told Syrian state TV the reports were just "dreams and illusions" and pictures showed Mr Assad unharmed at the prayer service.

Earlier, the militant Liwa al-Islam Brigade had told Reuters the motorcade had been hit. Opposition activists and residents also reported what seemed to be the sound of several incoming mortar explosions in the early morning, a BBC correspondent says.

In his third public appearance in little more than a week, Mr Assad was seen alongside Syria's Grand Mufti for Eid prayers, which are usually held about an hour or so after sunrise. In previous years, Mr Assad has been seen attending them early in the morning.

It was unclear whether the pictures aired on Syrian state television were prerecorded, BBC analysts say. For a brief moment they carried a "live" caption, which then swiftly vanished.