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Syrian state media show Assad praying at start of Muslim holiday amid surge in army casualties

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BEIRUT — Syrian state media have shown President Bashar Assad praying in Damascus at the start of a major Muslim holiday amid reports of an unprecedented high toll among his troops battling Islamic extremists.

State TV showed Assad performing prayers in Damascus' Khair mosque early Monday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says about 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalists have been killed in the past 10 days, mostly in fierce battles with fighters from the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group and other rebels in northern Syria.

The dead soldiers and allied militiamen are among more than 1,800 people reportedly killed in the same period — a record number of deaths since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.

Syria's three-year civil war has so far killed more than 170,000 people.

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