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Syria's Assad makes rare public appearance
Syrian president makes first appearance since assassination of top political echelon in July; attends Eid al-Fitr prayer service at Damascus' Hamad Mosque

Syria's state-run TV has aired footage of Syrian President Bashar Assad performing Eid prayers in a mosque in Damascus.

 

Sunday's broadcast was the first appearance in public by Assad after a July 18 bombing in Damascus killed the country's defense minister and three other top security officials, including the president's brother-in-law.

 

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Assad prayed at the Hamad Mosque in Damascus early on Sunday at the start of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

 

The last time he appeared in public was on July 4 when he gave a speech in parliament.

 

The Syrian regime has suffered a series of setbacks over the past month that point to a loosening of its grip on the country.

 

The July 18 rebel bombing of the state-security headquarters in the capital was a major blow to Assad. His brother-in-law was among the five killed offcials.

 

There has also been a steady stream of high-level defections by government officials, diplomats and generals, though Assad's inner circle and military have largely kept their cohesive stance behind him. And the regime has been unable to fully subdue rebel challenges in the two major cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

 

Assad's appearance comes amid much speculation on the whereabouts of Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa, who was said by some members of the Free Syrian Army to have defected to the opposition.

 

On Saturday, his office denied the reports and said al-Sharaa "did not think, at any moment, of leaving the country."

 

Al-Sharaa did not appear in the footage at the mosque with Assad.

 

 

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