Syrian refugees describe gangs fomenting sectarian strife (Christian Science Monitor)
“Quickly, move along. There are snipers shooting this way,” urges a Lebanese soldier, motioning the four across an exposed stretch of road within clear view of houses on the Syrian side of the narrow Kabir river.
The four men were the latest refugees to flee from Tel Kalakh, a Sunni-populated town lying two miles west of this village that straddles the border. Syrian security forces and regime loyalists are engaged in a bloody crackdown that residents say is turning into a sectarian war between Sunnis and Alawites, the minority Shiite offshoot that forms the backbone of the regime.
Since Saturday, thousands of residents of the besieged town have slipped into Lebanon, some braving sniper fire to cross the small stone bridge at Arida, others creeping through the rugged stony hills to find fordable reaches of the Kabir River. The refugees are bringing with them tales of bloodshed and terror that, if true, offer rare glimpses into the uncompromising measures used by the Syrian security forces to crush a two-month rebellion that has shaken the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
“The bullets were falling on us like rain. The children were terrified,” says one young woman wearing a black niqab, a face covering worn by devout Muslim women. The refugees interviewed refused to give their names for security reasons.
“They are killing all the Muslims,” she added. “They are destroying the mosques so that we cannot gather to pray and demonstrate.”
Sunnis targeted by Alawite militiamen
Several refugees described seeing people getting their throats cut in the street by gangs of black uniformed “Shabiha” Alawite militiamen. They said some of the Shabiha militiamen in Tel Kalakh were dispatched from Qordaha, an Alawite town in western Syria that is the ancestral home of the Assad family and consequently a staunch bastion of support for the regime.