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Syria’s Assad attends Eid prayers in former rebel bastion

#Syrias #Assad #attends #Eid #prayers #rebel #bastion

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended Eid al-Adha prayers on Saturday, the second day of his first visit to the former rebel stronghold of Aleppo in over a decade, state media reported.

Assad on Friday began the highly symbolic visit to Syria’s second-largest city, formerly held by rebels and jihadists before it was recaptured in 2016 with crucial Russian support, marking a key turning point in the country’s 11-year war.

“President Bashar al-Assad performed the Eid al-Adha prayer at the Sahabiy Abdallah bin Abbas Mosque in the city of Aleppo on Saturday,” state news agency SANA reported.

The news agency also released a message in which Assad wished the people of Syria and the soldiers of the military a happy feast feast.

Much of Aleppo has been disfigured by the conflict, including the historic old town where Assad and his family were pictured near the Great Umayyad Mosque on Friday.

SANA on Saturday released images of Assad surrounded by crowds of clerics and worshipers who clamored for him.

Before the war, the northern city – said to be one of the world’s longest continuously inhabited – boasted markets, mosques and public baths, but a brutal rebel siege left it disfigured.

According to estimates by the UN cultural agency UNESCO, up to 60 percent of Aleppo’s old town was damaged in the fighting.

From 2012, fierce fighting broke out between government troops, rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State group in Aleppo province, until they were gradually driven out by Russian-backed government troops.

On Friday, Assad visited a major power plant in the east of the province to oversee its partial restart after war damage.

He was also present when a water pumping station was restarted, the Syrian Presidency said in Telegram messages.

Power grids and other infrastructure across the country have been devastated by the war, which is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions.

The Syrian government does not have authority over the entire province of Aleppo, as areas along Turkey’s border are still controlled by Ankara-backed groups and the rival Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

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