Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made his first public appearance in 10 months on Wednesday, addressing a rally in Umayad Square in Damascus, The New York Times reported.
According to The Times, thousands attended the rally where Assad thanked his supporters and pledged to defeat any conspiracies against his country. Assad made his second speech in the last two days, to a crowd that cheered him on. Some even shouted “Shabiha forever, for your eyes, Assad,” a reference to loyalist militiamen, The Times reported.
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“We will defeat the conspiracy without any doubt,” Assad said, who appeared at the rally unexpectedly, The Times reported. “We will make this phase the last one of the conspiracy.”
According to The Times, his British-educated wife Asma, and their two children, were also present at the rally. Assad wore a jacket, but no neck tie and told the people, “I belong to the street,” The Times reported.
This appearance followed his nearly two-hour televised speech on Tuesday, in which he strongly defended his government’s reforms and blamed Syria’s unrest on “external conspiracies,” CNN reported. This was his first public address since June.
Assad’s speech came shortly after news broke from France 2 television that French journalist Gilles Jacquier was killed in Syria, the first to be killed in 10 months of unrest in the country. According to Syrian state television, eight other people had also been killed in the incident, blamed on a “terrorist group,” Reuters reported.
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"Gilles Jacquier was just doing his journalist job by covering the violent events in Syria resulting from the regime's unacceptable repression of the population," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, Reuters reported.