A prominent Syrian Muslim cleric has lost his life when a bomb blast targeted his car outside the capital Damascus.
The explosion that killed Damascus Mufti, Sheikh Mohammed Adnan Afyouni, took place in the city of Qudsaya, located 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) west of Damascus, on Thursday evening, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported.
The cleric was first reported wounded and then declared dead soon after.
It was not known who had planted the bomb, and no group immediately claimed responsibility.
Syrian Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Mohammed Abdul-Sattar al-Sayed, denounced Afyouni’s death, calling it a terrorist act.
“No matter how hard they (terrorists) would try through firepower and abhorrence, they would not be able to silence the voice of love which Sheikh Adnan projected across Damascus, its countryside and Syria. They cannot stifle true Islam, as well as the voice of truth and moderation…,” he added.
Sayed highlighted that the war on Syria has not ended, and that his ministry and its scholars will do their utmost to shield all religious institutions and mosques from the invasion of extremism.
Sheikh Afyouni had apparently been a key figure in the Syrian government’s reconciliation deals with foreign-sponsored terrorist groups on the capital’s outskirts.
He was one of the mediators of the August 2016 deal under which militants in the city of Daraya, situated 8 kilometers (5 miles) southwest of Damascus, surrendered after a four-year bloody battle.
After the evacuation, Afyouni led prayers a month later there as President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
Assad appointed Afyouni in 2019 to head the newly-founded Islamic al-Sham Center to combat terrorism.
US-backed SDF militants killed in northern Syria
Separately, three militants affiliated with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces were killed (SDF) in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah as well as the northern province of Raqqa.
Local sources, requesting anonymity, told SANA that unknown gunmen opened fire on an SDF militant in al-Shaddadi town on Thursday, killing him on the spot.
Elsewhere in Raqqa, two SDF militants were killed when an explosion struck their convoy near al-Rashid Park in the city center.
Security conditions have been deteriorating in the SDF-controlled areas in Hasakah, Dayr al-Zawr and Raqqah provinces.
Local Syrians complain that the SDF’s constant raids have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihood.
Residents accuse the US-sponsored militants of stealing crude oil and refusing to spend money on service sectors.
Local councils affiliated with the SDF also stand accused of financial corruption.