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Assad offers Eid prayers


Damascus : Syrian state TV Sunday aired live footage of embattled President Bashar al-Assad performing special prayers on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr, in a rare public appearance in over a month, Xinhua reported.

Assad, flanked by top officials and ministers, prayed at the al-Hamad mosque in Damascus.

This was Assad’s first public appearance since a blast in July struck the national security headquarters in the capital and killed four of officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law.

The president is facing scathing international pressures over his government’s alleged crackdown on his opponents.

On Saturday, one of two deputies of Assad reportedly defected and fled the country for Jordan, an opposition spokesman said.

Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, 74, was held under house arrest by Assad’s regime, but escaped it, the spokesman for the Syrian National Council told Al Arabiya.

However, Syrian state news agency SANA dismissed the report.

Sharaa was the highest-ranking Sunni Muslim in the country run by an Alawite minority. He was a close ally of Assad’s father, late president Hafez Assad, and served as a foreign minister for 22 years before becoming a vice president in 2006.