Syria's Assad makes rare appearance for Eid prayers
By Tom Perry
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first appearance in public since a July bomb attack, attending prayers at a Damascus mosque to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid, state TV showed.
The first day of Eid on Sunday also gave Assad's opponents a chance to rally and activists reported protests around Syria, including in the capital, on a holiday that marked the end of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Fighting raged on around Syria, killing more than 100 people, an activist group reported.
Battling a 17-month-old uprising against 42 years of rule by his family, Assad was filmed at prayer with his prime minister and foreign minister but not with his vice president, Farouq al-Shara, whose reported defection was denied the previous day.
Shaken by a July 18 bomb attack in Damascus and defections - including that of his last prime minister - Assad's recent appearances on state TV had previously been restricted to footage of him conducting official business. He was shown swearing in the new prime minister a week ago.
Syria's civil war has intensified since the bombing that killed members of Assad's inner circle, including his defense minister and brother-in-law.
Assad was pictured on Sunday sitting cross-legged at a mosque in the Damascus residential district of Muhajirin listening to a sermon in which Syria was described as a victim of "terrorism" and a conspiracy hatched by the United States, Israel, the West and Arabs - a reference to Gulf states which back the revolt.
Sheikh Mohammad Kheir Ghantous said the plot would not "defeat our Islam, our ideology and our determination". Continued...