Villagers 'Massacred' by Syrian Rebels: Report

Shiite clerics hung from gates of town, activist claims
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2013 10:44 AM CDT
Rebels from al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag on the top of a Syrian air force helicopter.   (AP Photo/Edlib News Network ENN, File)

(Newser) – Rebels attacked a village in eastern Syria yesterday, leaving at least 60 people dead—most of them pro-government Shiite fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says the rebels numbered into the thousands. A government official describes the attack on Hatla as "a massacre against villagers in which older people and children were killed," reports the BBC. Many of the rebels involved were from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, Reuters reports.

A video of the attack, titled "The Storming And Cleansing of Hatla," shows rebels carrying the flags of jihadist groups and firing weapons into the streets. "This is a Sunni area, it does not belong to other groups," says one of the fighters. But one activist says the attack was not sectarian, but rather motivated by government attempts to recruit fighters in the rebel-controlled area. "Three of the men killed were three Shiite clerics. They were executed and hung on the gates of the town," he tells Reuters. "But among the dead were also Sunnis [who had joined pro-Assad militia]. This is really about betrayal."

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