Syria: Druze villagers killed by al-Nusra
At least 22 Syrian Druze villagers were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out with al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, witnesses have said.
The deaths in the Qalb Lawzeh village, in Idlib province, came after locals objected to Nusra fighters seizing the home of a Syrian regime soldier.
One of the Nusra fighters, part of a group led by a Tunisian fighter named Abdul-Rahman al-Tunisi, then opened fire on neighbourhood residents.
"Following the altercation, one of the brothers opened fire on al-Nusra men, killing one," said a local, who did not wish to be named for security reasons. "Al-Nusra fighters responded in kind, prompting the locals to gather and try to stop al-Nusra's men, who then fired at the gathering of locals, killing four.
"The locals then threw stones at al-Nusra, who responded by firing at them, killing 18 of the village's residents, including elderly men and two children," he added.
Another witness speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed said residents had been in fear following the attack.
"The massacre perpetrated by al-Nusra caused panic among the people of the area, known as Jabal al-Druze," he said.
The news of the massacre was also reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group based in the UK.
"The Tunisian leader brought his men and accused the Druze residents of the village of blasphemy and opened fire on them killing at least 20 people, among them elderly people and at least one child," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory.
Sources close to Ahrar al-Sham, a major opposition group allied to the Nusra Front, said that the movement was in talks with the al-Qaeda affiliate to persuade it to lift the siege on the village and others in the area.
Ahrar al-Sham's plan involves providing shelter and protection to the families that have left the village, and Nusra replacing the group that carried out the massacre with another group of its fighters.