March 22, 2013

By Nuha Shaaban and Jacob Wirtschafter

Official media in Syria reported 49 dead and 84 injured in Thursday’s attack on the Damascus mosque that killed Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti, but on Friday conflicting accounts emerged of the how al-Bouti died.

Al-Bouti was a Sunni religious leader and prominent supporter of the regime. State-run television broadcast an interview with al-Bouti’s son, Tarek, who blamed the violence on “people working for Israel." He did not elaborate.

As state news agency SANA reported a “suicide terrorist blew himself up while scholar Dr. Al-Bouti was giving a religious lesson," opposition leaders and activists pointed fingers at the government and parsed aftermath pictures of the scene for clues on Friday, claiming President Assad had motives to eliminate the 84-year-old cleric.

Moaz al-Khatib, the President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, issued at statement Friday condemning the attack, saying he had information that Dr. Al-Bouti was changing his views about the regime.

Commentators on opposition satellite station Syria al-Shaab aired video of the interior of the al-Iman Mosque showing no burned carpets, sacred books, or explosive dust.

“The regime took detained people to the mosque and killed them there. That is why we see all of the dead laying at the scene with head injures,” speculated a source close to the FSA who asked to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile Kurdish members of the opposition said a government desperate to drive a wedge between revolutionary elements and Syria’s Kurds killed the Kurdish al-Bouti due to his ethnic background.

“What Assad wants from killing al-Bouti is to make trouble between Arab and Kurd people, and now they claim that an FSA member did this," said opposition spokesman Salar al-Kurdi.

Al-Kurdi, who lives in the eastern province of Hasaka, tied al-Bouti’s assassination to the opposition’s vote Tuesday selecting Ghassan Hitto, an ethnic Kurd, as the head of the interim government.

“The reason behind this is to misrepresent the Syrian Revolution, “said al-Kurdi. “They are trying to portray this as a sectarian revolution but a person who can destroy 757 mosques in Homs, Outer Damascus, and Idlib won’t have any problem damaging another holy place or killing another holy man.”