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Funeral held for slain Syrian cleric

Funeral held for slain Syrian cleric
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A massive funeral has taken place for the pro-Syrian government cleric murdered at a Damascus mosque on Thursday.

Sheik Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti and nearly 50 other people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up.
Mourners carried Buti and his grandson’s coffin on their shoulders amid shouts of “God is great”.

The mass killing inside the Umayyad Mosque, a historic place of worship, shocked many Syrians, now long accumstomed to the daily bloodshed of a conflict that has claimed more than 70,000 lives.

The blast took place in the same Mazraa district of the capital where a car bomb killed more than 60 people last month, another sign that Syria’s civil war has penetrated the heart of Bashar al-Assad’s capital.

In response, Assad has vowed to purge the country of “extremist forces” although no group has claimed responsibility for the killings.

As Buti was a Sunni Muslim, like many Syrian rebels, there was widespread anger over his support for a president from the country’s Alawite minority. Some have blamed the attack and subsequent bombings on the authorities seeking to shift the balance of power.

Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib, a former preacher at the Umayyad Mosque, said the killing of a Muslim scholar in a religious sanctuary was a “crime in every sense of the world.”

But he also believes there were signs Buti was questioning his support for Assad and that authorities “feared that if he took a courageous decision it could overturn the whole balance (of power).”