A prominent Syrian Muslim leader in charge of the Damascus region was killed on Thursday when a bomb planted in his car exploded outside the capital, state news agency SANA said.
Adnan al-Afiyuni, the Sunni Muslim mufti for Damascus province, was considered to be close to President Bashar al-Assad who hails from the Alawite offshoot of Shia Islam.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor said the 66-year-old Muslim scholar played a key role in reaching reconciliation deals with rebel fighters on the capital’s outskirts during the country’s nine-year war.
Afiyuni died “as the result of an explosive device planted in his car” in the town of Qudssaya, northwest of the capital, SANA quoted the endowments ministry as saying.
In September 2016, Afiyuni led prayers as al-Assad made a rare public appearance to celebrate the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha in Daraya outside Damascus after the last rebels evacuated the previous month under a surrender deal.
The Muslim leader, who sported a long white beard, hailed the town as an example for Syria.
He told those listening Daraya was “living proof for all Syrians that the only option available to you is reconciliation and abandoning fighting”.
Explosions have been relatively rare in and around the capital since government forces expelled the last rebels and fighters from its doorstep in 2018.
After a string of military victories backed by key ally Russia, the government has regained control of nearly 70 percent of the country, the SOHR said.
The monitor said Syria’s war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.