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Syria TV confirms video of cleric's killing is real

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Syrian state television has confirmed that a video showing the March 21 killing of prominent religious cleric Mohammed Saeed al-Bouti is real, days after describing the footage as a fake.

In an unprecedented act, the broadcaster said it "apologised" for denying the authenticity of a video distributed online this week, showing the moment of an explosion in a Damascus mosque that killed Syria's best-known Sunni cleric.

Thought to have been recorded by a mosque camera, the footage emerged this week. It shows Bouti giving a lecture in a Damascus mosque. After he is hit by an explosion he sits back up momentarily to adjust his cap.

Seconds later, a man rushes towards the pulpit and holds the cleric. Bouti then falls to his right and the man steps away, making a gesture of shock.

Three other men then approach Bouti, by which time his face is covered in blood, in an apparent bid to get him to safety.

On Tuesday, state television said the video was a "fake", and accused anti-Damascus satellite channels of "taking advantage of the blood of a martyr".

The broadcaster then said the video was not original footage, saying the images were unclear, as well as the lack of sound after the moment of the explosion, to back its argument.

But on Wednesday, Bouti's son Toufik was invited to speak on state television and confirmed the video's authenticity.

"Those who were present told me they saw my father's face and body, that he fell to his side and that he fixed his cap," he said.

Toufik also said the first man to approach Bouti after the explosion was his own son Ahmed, "who was seated in front of his grandfather".

Bizarrely, Bouti's grandson was also reported to have been killed in the same explosion.

Syrian television then backtracked on its denial after Toufik Bouti's comments.

"After doubting the authenticity of the video in our newscast yesterday (Tuesday), and for the sake of our credibility, we apologise to our viewers for the mistake we made," a news presenter said.

But the channel has not backtracked on its claims that the explosion was the work of a suicide bomber.

The footage has raised much speculation among the opposition, with activists suggesting that the cleric may have been killed by the regime.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130411/syria-tv-confirms-video-clerics-killing-real