Mohammed Saeed Ramadan Al-Bouti, his grandson, and 49 otherswere killed when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb inside a mosquewhere he was delivering a sermon on Thursday.The cleric was Imam of the Omayyad Mosque, a Damascus landmark. Heis the most senior religious figure to be killed in the Syrianconflict to date.During the funeral, mourners carried 84-year-old Mohammad SaidRamadan al-Bouti’s coffin on their shoulders while shouting “Godis Great.” The cleric was buried on grounds beside the tomb of the Saladin,regarded as a heroic warrior in Islam. The move angered oppositionactivists, who turned to social media to express their fury.”Burying Buti next to Saladin is a deliberate insult,”activist Waleed al-Akrat wrote on Twitter.Syrian President Bashar Assad was being represented at thefuneral by one of his cabinet ministers, according to state TV. OnFriday, the Syrian leader vowed to “cleanse” his country of“extremists,” whom he accused of being behind the attack.”I swear to the Syrian people that your blood, and that of yourgrandson and all the martyrs of the homeland, will not be spilledin vain because we will be faithful to your ideas by destroyingtheir extremism and ignorance until we have cleansed thecountry,” Assad said in an official statement.The slain cleric had been a vocal supporter of the Syrian regimesince the days of Assad’s father and predecessor. In a speechearlier this month, al-Bouti said it was “a religious duty toprotect the values, the land and the nation” of Syria. Hepreviously referred to Assad’s opponents as “scum.”According to journalist Abdullah Mawazini, it was those statementsthat prompted the opposition to carry out the attack.“We believe the opposition is responsible for this. We haveIslamist extremist groups – jihadis – who are fighting against thegovernment. Mr. al-Bouti, before he was killed, in his last speechon Friday, said we should fight with the Syrian army and not theopposition groups so this raised a lot of controversy…anddiscussion in Syrian society and led to this killing,” he toldRT. But the opposition has also condemned the attack, pointing thefinger at the Assad regime. The current head of the National SyrianCoalition, Moaz Alkhatib, said on his Facebook page that only theSyrian government could be behind the attack, stressing theimportance that places of worship and clerics not be targeted.”The killing of Doctor al-Bouti is a crime in every sense of theword,” he wrote. “No matter the differences that clerics inSyria may have in their view of the situation, this does not allowfor the merciless killing of Muslims or the defilement ofmosques.”A ‘biased and imbalanced’ UNAlso on Saturday, Assad’s regime said it rejected a UN Human RightsCouncil decision to continue an investigation of “allegedviolations of international human rights law.” An unnamedofficial told SANA news agency that the group’s work is “biased andimbalanced.”The comment comes a day after the UN Human Rights Council passedthe resolution, which the official said doesn’t take into account“the unethical role played by states that sponsor terrorism inSyria, which fund, train, arm and send terrorists andmercenaries” into the country.He added that the resolution reflects “a policy of doublestandards practiced by some countries that claim to defend humanrights.”The resolution was adopted with 41 votes in favor, one against, andfive countries abstaining. It strongly condemned violence on bothsides, but noted that those “committed by anti-government armedgroups did not reach the intensity and scale of the violationscommitted by the government forces and its affiliatedmilitia.”Meanwhile, European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashtonsays there is a real sense of urgency to ensure political progressin Syria.The comment came during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at DublinCastle. The two-day talks failed to find a common position on thefuture of the EU’s Syrian arms embargo.France and Britain believe that lifting the embargo would raisepressure on Assad to negotiate an end to the civil war, which hasled to the deaths of an estimated 70,000 people.Other EU countries disagree, saying that lifting the embargo wouldlead to weapons falling into the hands of Islamist militants, aswell as fuel regional conflict and encourage Assad’s backers tostep up arms supplies to the leader.The EU has until June 1 to decide whether to renew or amend itssanctions on Syria. Changing the arms ban needs the backing of all27 EU states.
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