An attack on a Syrian village killed or injured as many as
200 members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority
sect, activists said, but it was unclear who was behind the
Casualty counts varied, but several activists said they could
confirm 10 dead. The opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights said 125 were hurt or killed in a series of
explosions that destroyed several houses in the town of
Aqrab. There were no reports on Syria's state media.
Other activists blamed Assad's forces for the attack, which
they said involved the shelling of a house in which at least
200 Alawites were hiding.
The circumstances of the attacks were unclear and impossible
to verify independently. Syrian authorities tightly restrict
the activities of journalists. The incident is the first
known report of any large scale assault on Alawites in the
20-month-old Syrian uprising.
A rebel who spoke to Reuters by telephone said fighters had
clashed with the army in Aqrab for four days. Rebels had
surrounded one building and accused pro-Assad militias, known
as shabbiha, of using residents hiding there as human
"There were 200 people inside and we called on the residents
to leave, but the shabbiha held some women and children by
gunpoint. Eventually talks fell apart and the government
shelled the building," said the rebel, who called himself
Syria's Sunni Muslim majority has mostly led the uprising
against Assad, and that has caused friction with minorities
such as the Alawites, who have largely stood by the
With the circumstances of the attack still murky, it risks
sparking a fresh wave of sectarian bloodshed in a region of
Syria where three massacres of Sunnis were reported in the
past year. There have been many reports of kidnappings and
revenge killings between Sunnis and Alawites in the region.
Wounded children, apparently Alawites from Aqrab, appeared at
an opposition field hospital in the town of al-Houla, a few
kilometres (miles) away, where they were interviewed by
rebels in videos published on YouTube.
Three young boys interviewed said they and at least 200 other
people had been hiding with shabbiha, but did not say if they
were hiding from government shelling or rebel attack.
"We were inside the house with shabbiha, they said they were
protecting us from the rebels. The rebels started telling us
come out, no one will hurt you," said Mohamed Judl, a young
boy covered in a blanket, shivering as he was interviewed by
an activist at the clinic. "The shabbiha wouldn't let us