Thousands of Syrian regime supporters attended the funeral of a pro-government Sunni cleric in the ancient Unmayyad Mosque in Damascus. His burial has sparked outrage with the Muslim opposition fighting the regime.
Mohamed Saeed al-Bouti, a government-appointed imam, was killed along with his grandson on Thursday in a suicide bombing. At least 49 others died in the attack.
His burial Saturday sparked controversy among Syrian opposition activists as officials buried him beside the tomb of the Saladin, an Islamic religious figure believed to be a 12th century warrior.
Opponents quickly voiced their anger about the decision to bury al-Bouti beside the Saladin tomb.
"Burying al-Bouti next to Saladin is a deliberate insult," Waleed al-Akrat said in a message sent out on the microblogging website Twitter.
"Oh, Saladin. Forgive us. We are sorry," tweeted another.
State television broadcasters streamed the funeral live, showing crowds of men carrying the white-draped casket into the mosque.
Meanwhile, rebel forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime seized a key air base in the southern province of Daraa Saturday after two weeks fighting, a watchdog reported.
"Opposition fighters loyal to Al-Nusra Front, Al-Yarmuck Brigade and other rebel groups seized air defense Base 38 near the town of Saida, on the road linking Damascus to Amman, in the province of Daraa," the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The seizure, they added, "came after 16 days of fighting."
The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a network of on the ground activists, said rebel groups had also taken over a checkpoint in Sahem al-Golan.
jlw/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)