Syria hit by mystery death squads
Shadowy death squads are operating in Syria’s flashpoint city of Homs, say anti-government activists in the country, from which foreign reporters are officially banned.
In the past two days, more people have been killed in mysterious circumstances than by the state security forces firing in the streets. Yet little is known about who is behind such killings, which appear to target government supporters and opponents.
The emergence of irregular militias has complicated what began in March as a popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, inspired by unarmed demonstrators who led Arab Spring protests elsewhere.
UN officials say Syria is close to “civil war.” There are also fears sectarian divisions could deepen the conflict, as happened in recent years in neighbouring Iraq.
Reports offer only a partial explanation of who was behind the kidnapping and murder of more than 60 Syrians whose bodies were dumped Monday in two sites in Homs.
A witness in the city told the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights he saw the bodies of 34 people “who were originally kidnapped earlier today by Shabiha from the neighbourhood uprising against the regime.”
Shabiha is a popular name for state-backed paramilitaries drawn from Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect, who are outnumbered by the majority Sunnis about eight to one.
Since the early months of the uprising, the Shabiha have been accused of abductions, assassinations and drive-by shootings across Syria.
Another anti-government activist in Homs said at least 32 more bodies collected in various locations and brought to the state hospital included Assad opponents and supporters.