Syria's Assad prays at Damascus mosque

BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad prayed at a mosque in the capital Damascus on Sunday, state television reported, the latest of several recent public appearances.
Assad, dressed in a dark suit and sitting in the front row, joined men praying at Al-Afram mosque to celebrate the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, according to the footage broadcast.
He has made only occasional public appearances since Syria's uprising erupted in 2011 and spiraled into a civil war.
Assad has appeared several times recently, however, including on Dec. 31 when he was reported to have visited Syrian troops northeast of Damascus in what was presented as a morale-boosting trip at New Year.
Damascus city remains under government control but pro-government forces regularly clash with anti-Assad fighters on the outskirts.
After Sunday's prayers, Assad shook hands and embraced clerics and other worshippers at the mosque, the footage showed. He prayed at the same mosque last year for the celebration, according to Syrian media reports.
In October he took part in prayers marking the Eid holiday in the capital and in July he appeared at the presidential palace when sworn in for a new term and gave a defiant speech, vowing to recover all of the country from insurgents.
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