Large crowd gathers in Damascus for funeral of top pro-Assad preacher slain in mosque bombing

Thousands of people have gathered in downtown Damascus amid tight security for the funeral of a senior pro-government cleric who was assassinated in a mosque earlier this week.

Security forces sealed off all roads leading to the eighth century Omayyad Mosque where the funeral for 84-year-old Sheik Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti was held.

Al-Buti, his grandson and 48 others were killed Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a mosque where al-Buti was giving a religious lesson.

Mourners carried al-Buti and his grandson's coffin on their shoulders Saturday amid shouts of "God is Great."

Al-Buti was Imam of the Omayyad Mosque, a landmark in Damascus.

Syrian state TV said President Bashar Assad was being represented at the funeral by one of his cabinet ministers.