Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fighting 10 months of pro-democracy protests, greeted thousands of rapturous supporters in a Damascus square on Wednesday, only a day after breaking a six-month public silence.
The crowd shouted Shabiha forever, for your eyes, Assad, a reference to loyalist militiamen who have gained a fearsome reputation for their part in suppressing anti-Assad protests.
Assad's wife Asma and their two children joined him for his surprise appearance in the capital's central Umayyad Square.
I belong to this street, Assad said, adding that Syria faced foreign conspirators. We will make this phase the end for them and their plans. We are going to win without any doubt.