Syria's Assad in rare appearance for Eid prayers

A handout picture released by the official Twitter page of the Syrian presidency on September 1, 2017, shows President Bashar al-Assad performing the morning Eid al-Adha prayer at the Grand Mosque of Qara (AFP Photo/Handout)

Damascus (AFP) - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance outside Damascus Friday for morning prayers marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, state media reported.

Since the start of Syria's devastating conflict in 2011, Assad has only left the capital on a few occasions.

This year, however, he has been able to venture further afield more frequently, including to the central province of Hama and to western Syria, as his forces and their allies have scored victories on the battlefield.

"President Assad prayed on Eid al-Adha... in the town of Qara" in western Qalamun, near Lebanon, the presidency tweeted, along with a picture of him kneeling in a mosque flanked by other officials.

State television showed footage of the Syrian leader smiling in the presence of his supporters inside the mosque in Qara.

Last week forces loyal to Assad, including fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, drove Islamic State group jihadists out of western Qalamun.

Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest feast days in the Islamic calendar.

More than 330,000 people have died since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011 with anti-government protests.

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