DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian president vowed Friday to rid the country of Muslim extremists whom he blamed for a suicide blast the previous evening that killed dozens of people, including a top Sunni preacher who was a staunch supporter of Bashar Assad.
And in a warning to rebels battling to topple his regime, the Syrian leader pledged that his troops will "wipe out" and clean the country of the "forces of darkness."
Assad's statement came as the Syrian Health Ministry raised the death toll from the Thursday night bombing in Damascus to 49, after seven of the wounded died overnight in hospital.
In the attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in the heart of the Syrian capital, killing Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti as he was giving a sermon. The blast also wounded 84 people.