Syria’s Assad says he certain to defeat rebels

Reuters reports: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday he was confident of victory against rebels and made a symbolic visit to a town once overrun by insurgents and now mostly retaken by his army.

But Assad’s forces took a blow in the central city of Homs, where at least 40 people were killed in a huge explosion that hit a weapons cache and in mortar attacks on mainly Alawite districts – the same minority sect as Assad – and guarded by pro-Assad militia, opposition activists said.

Loyalists retaliated by bombarding the north-western district of al-Waer, killing 22 people, mostly civilians. Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim refugees had taken refuge at al-Waer, fleeing bombardment by Assad’s forces on rebellious Sunni neighbourhoods in the centre of Homs, they said.

Assad’s visit to the battered town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, and a defiant speech illustrate the confidence of a president who is taking the upper hand in a conflict two years after many Syrians believed he was about to be toppled.

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