A leading Sunni imam with close ties to Bashar al-Assad was killed today, when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside his mosque. The bomber detonated himself inside the Eman Mosque in central Damascus, killing the imam and many other worshipers. Only early casualty report says at least 15 were killed, though unconfirmed numbers suggest it could be several more.. The cleric, Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti, was one of the leading Sunni religious leaders in Syria and was a longtime supporter of Assad and his ruling Alawite sect.

While some opponents may be happy about an attack that strikes at the power base built by Assad and his supporters, attacking a mosque in the middle of evening prayers may have crossed a line that even the regime's toughest critics cannot support. 

The attack on the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in 2006 was a pivtol turning point in the Iraq War, one that helped transform the conflict from an isurgency to all-out sectarian bloodbath, with Shia and Sunni militias trading ever more violent reprisasl. While the the Syria conflict has certainly seen its share of sectarian attacks already, the destruction of the mosque potentially risks pushing the conflict from a war to unseat Assad into a Sunni vs. Shia grudge match. Which is exactly what Assad himself would prefer.

Syrian news services have broadcast some footage from inside the damaged mosque, but be warned that some of the images are quite graphic and disturbing.