ANTAKYA, Turkey -- A senior pro-government Sunni Muslim cleric was killed in the Syrian capital Thursday night when an explosion struck the mosque where he had been giving a lecture.
More than a dozen other people were killed in the blast at the Iman Mosque in Damascus in what appeared to be a targeted assassination of Sheik Muhammad Bouti.
[Updated 3:49 p.m. March 21: The state-run news agency said the bombing killed 42 people, including the 84-year-old cleric and his grandson, and injured 84. The official news service said a suicide bomber blew himself up while the cleric was giving a religious lesson.]
The cleric had been a prominent supporter of President Bashar Assad since the uprising against the Syrian leader began two years ago. Bouti was imam of the ancient Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.