(DAMASCUS, Syria) — A rare public appearance by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday fueled questions about whether another member of his Cabinet had defected.
Al-Assad, who has grown increasingly skittish about turning up in places where he might not be protected from rebel attacks, was photographed at a Damascus mosque to celebrate the end of Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
He was seen with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and other clerics at the mosque during the ceremony, where only a few were invited — an indication of the ring of security that al-Assad needs these days.
However, missing from the photo was Syrian Vice President Farouk Shara. There have been conflicting reports about Shara’s whereabouts, with rebel leaders insisting that he has fled to Jordan to join their side.
No direct confirmation has yet come from Shara with the likely scenario that he is still in Syria, either because he has not defected or he may be unable to leave the country.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Sheena McKenzie, CNN