A prominent pro-regime Syrian Muslim cleric in charge of the Damascus region Adnan al-Afiyuni was killed on Thursday when a bomb planted in his car exploded outside the capital, news agency SANA reported.
Afiyuni, the mufti for Damascus province, was considered to be close to President Bashar al-Assad.
SANA, quoting the Ministry of Endowments, said that Afiyuni died “when an explosive device planted in his car exploded in the town of Qudsaya, northwest of Damascus.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said the 66-year-old cleric played a key role in reaching so-called “reconciliation deals” with rebel fighters on the capital's outskirts during the country's nine-year war.
In September 2016, Afiyuni led prayers as Assad made a rare public appearance to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday in the town of Daraya near Damascus.
This was after the last rebels had left and the town’s civilian population had been forcibly evacuated the previous month under a surrender deal.
Afiyuni was also a member of Syria’s Islamic Jurisprudence Council and Chief Administrator of the Damascus International Islamic Center for Countering Extremism.
No one has claimed killing Afiyuni.
Assassinations like this have become rare in Damascus after government forces seized full control over Damascus neighborhoods in 2018 that were previously under the control of ISIS.
This includes Eastern Ghouta, which for years was the most prominent stronghold rebels near Damascus.
In 2013, Sheikh Muhammad Ramadan Saeed Al-Buti was killed in an explosion in Damascus.
Afiyuni assumed his duties in May 2019 after receiving a direct order from Assad.