Syria's President Bashar al-Assad joins Instagram in bold PR move
Pictures show he and his wife wiping the tears from children's faces and visiting the sick in hospital
Set up just last week - a few days after his forces killed scores of rebels in an ambush in Damascus, and a few days before they took the heart of the strategically-important city of Homs - the account provides his followers with pictures of Assad and his wife happily touring the war-torn country.
In a bold international PR move for a man accused by the US and UK of using the nerve agent sarin against his own people, Assad and his wife Asma can be seen greeting loyal citizens, wiping the tears from children's faces, and visiting the sick in hospital.
The conflict, now in its third year, is fought between the regime and anti-government rebels, mostly from the disparate Free Syrian Army. It has spilled periodically across Syria's borders with Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, threatening to engulf the region.
Tensions in the country are running high with dozens of people reportedly killed in sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The stakes have been raised recently with the intervention of the Shia Hezbollah militia on the pro-government side, fuelling anger among Lebanon's Sunnis. Hezbollah fighters were reportedly instrumental last month in the fall of the formerly rebel-held city of Qusayr, which tipped the balance of the conflict in Assad's favour.
Independent News Service