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16 Feb, 2012 14:19

Pro-Assad Imam shot dead in Damascus

A leading religious figure has been assassinated in the conservative Midan area of the Syrian capital Damascus.

Sheik Mohammad Ahmad Ouf Sadeq was an imam at the mosque Anas bin Malek. When he was returning to the capital on Wednesday, an armed group intercepted his vehicle in Qadam Assali, in the Damascus suburbs. Sadeq, 36, had a Ph.D. in Sharia law, and is survived by four children. Some think the religious leader was killed because of his strong pro-Assad position, as he is said to have strongly condemned a January 6 terrorist attack Midan and called for national unity.According to supporters of the imam, those who killed him want more bloodshed in the country. “He was killed because he was calling for reform and the end of clashes,” said Sheikh Housaim Shouaib.“Those who did it – they only want chaos and more death.”Members of the opposition also live in the area and tension there has been high. Last month, a suicide bombing in the area killed 26 people and injured more than 60 others.Also on Thursday in the south-western city of Daraa, where Syria’s unrest erupted months ago, the opposition claimed heavy clashes were taking place, as Assad’s forces attacked the Free Syrian Army.RT spoke with the governor of the region, who said there was no Free Syrian Army in the city. He explained that there is no well-coordinated opposition military force, but rather a number of separate armed groups consisting mostly of army defectors and foreign soldiers.Thursday has also seen a large anti-government protest, held at the funeral of a protester killed in an anti-Assad rally. The demonstrators chanted anti-Assad’s slogans accusing him of mass killings. “We are afraid for our children and people and brothers and sisters”.

‘West wants Assad out just as it wanted Gaddafi’

Russ Baker, an award-winning investigative reporter and founder of WhoWhatWhy.com, told RT there significant similarities between current events in Syria and last year's in Libya.“Western countries clearly want Bashar Assad out just as much as they wanted Gaddafi out, and we are seeing the introduction of tremendous amounts of force – very skilled, sophisticated operations."In Damascus, Baker noted, militant operatives are bringing the battle directly to Assad – not a sign of a traditional peaceful uprising. “That is not to say that there aren’t a large number of people in Syria who would like to get rid of Assad, but I think that the sentiment of part of the population is being dramatically helped along by outside forces,” he said. Baker also pointed out that while the US and its allies demand Assad leave power, they do not say the same thing about other leaders who propagate similar types of violence and human rights violations.