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Bomb inside mosque in opposition-held Damascus neighborhood kills cleric, says Syrian TV

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BEIRUT — A bomb exploded inside a mosque in an opposition-held suburb of Damascus on Friday killing a Sunni Muslim cleric, Syria's state TV reported.

The TV said the bomb was placed under the pulpit, or minbar, at the Grand Mosque in the Tal area and went off shortly after the Friday prayers ended. The report said Sheikh Suleiman Afandi was instantly killed.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the killing. Tal has witnessed reconciliation between the government and rebels but is mostly opposition-controlled.

Bombings targeting mosques have not been uncommon during Syria's civil war. In 2013, Sunni Muslim preacher Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti — an outspoken supporter of President Bashar Assad — was killed along with at least 41 others when a suicide bomber struck a Damascus mosque.

Also Friday, fighters from Syria's al-Qaida branch, the Nusra Front, and 12 other Islamic groups launched fresh attacks on government-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, activists and state media said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks started Thursday and that 35 militants have been killed. There was no casualty figure for government troops.

State TV said troops repelled the attacks and aired a live report from the city to show the situation was under control. It said more than 100 "terrorists" were killed in Aleppo and nearby villages.

Also Friday, near the Lebanese border, Syrian troops and pro-government fighters tried to storm the mountain-resort of Zabadani under the cover of intense airstrikes, the Observatory said.

The local Coordination Committees, said rebels are defending Zabadani, adding that three local fighters were killed there on Friday.

Syria's civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded at least a million, according to the U.N.

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