Pro-regime Syrian cleric killed in car bomb attack near Damascus
A prominent pro-regime Syrian Muslim cleric in charge of the Damascus region was killed on Thursday when a bomb planted in his car exploded outside the capital, regime news agency SANA said.
Adnan al-Afiyuni, the mufti for Damascus province, was considered to be close to President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the 66-year-old cleric played a key role in reaching so-called “reconciliation deals” with rebel fighters on the capital's outskirts during the country's nine-year war.
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Afiyuni died "as the result of an explosive device planted in his car" in the town of Qudsaya, northwest of the capital, SANA quoted the regime’s Awqaf (Religious Endowments) ministry as saying.
In September 2016, Afiyuni led prayers as Assad made a rare public appearance to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the town of Daraya near Damascus.
This was after the last rebels had left and the town’s civilian population was forcibly evacuated the previous month under a surrender deal.
In 2012 approximately 400-500 people were killed in a massacre followed by a regime attack in Daraya.
Read more: The Tragedy of Daraya
The Muslim cleric, who sported a long white beard, hailed the town as “an example” for Syria.
He told those listening that Daraya was “living proof for all Syrians that the only option available to you is reconciliation and abandoning fighting”.
The town is today virtually empty of inhabitants.
Explosions have been relatively rare in and around the Syrian capital since regime forces took control of the nearby Ghouta area from rebels, forcibly expelling much of the population, in 2018.
More than 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, mostly as a result of Assad regime bombardment of civilian areas.