Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dozens of Shiites Reported Killed in Reprisal Raid by Syria Rebels

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Dozens of Shiites Reported Killed in Reprisal Raid by Syria Rebels

Article excerpt

BEIRUT -- At least 30 Shiite Muslim residents of an eastern Syria village were killed in a reprisal raid by rebels, the government and opposition fighters and activists said Wednesday, the latest in a string of massacres underscoring the Syrian conflict's increasingly sectarian nature.

The Syrian government called the killings, reported to have happened Tuesday in Hatlah, a village in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province, a massacre of civilians, saying 30 died.

Anti-government activists put the toll at 60, and said most of the dead were pro-government militia fighters who had attacked rebels a day earlier. But some activists nonetheless condemned the Hatlah attack as a destructive act of revenge that showed the powerlessness of moderates among the mostly Sunni rebels to rein in extremists.

What was not in dispute was that several battalions of Sunni rebels, including members of extremist Islamist groups, stormed the village and, in video posted online by anti-government activists, could be seen setting houses on fire as they shouted sectarian slogans, calling Shiites dogs, apostates and infidels.

"This is your end, you dogs," a man off camera said as he panned across what he said were corpses of "pug-nosed" Shiites, including one with what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head.

"We have raised the banner of 'There Is No God but God' over the houses of the rejectionist Shiite apostates," one fighter chanted in another clip, as a black cloud billowed above the village and jubilant gunmen brandished black flags often used by the extremist Al Nusra Front and other Islamist fighting groups.

Some extremist Sunnis refer to Shiites as rejectionists because the sect arose from a group that rejected 7th-century successors of the ProphetMohammed.

The Syrian conflict began as a popular uprising demanding political rights, but gradually has taken on a more sectarian tone. …

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