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Bashar al-Assad sa igår at det ikke kan bli slutt på borgerkrigen før terroristene er tatt. Opplysningene fra Houla tyder på at han kan begynne med sin egen milits.

«It’s very hard for me to describe what I saw, the images were incredibly disturbing,» a Houla resident who hid in his home during the massacre told The Associated Press on Tuesday. «Women, children without heads, their brains or stomachs spilling out.»

He said the pro-regime gunmen, known as shabiha, targeted the most vulnerable in the farming villages that make up Houla, a poor area in Homs province. «They went after the women, children and elderly,» he said, asking that his name not be used out of fear of reprisals.

Assad’s government often deploys fearsome militias that provide muscle for the regime and carry out military-style attacks. They frequently work closely with soldiers and security forces, but the regime never acknowledges their existence, allowing it to deny responsibility for their actions.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there are strong suspicions that pro-Assad fighters were responsible for some of the killings, adding that he has seen no reason to believe that «third elements» — or outside forces — were involved, although he did not rule it out.

The Syrian regime has denied any role in the massacre, blaming the killings on «armed terrorists» who attacked army positions in the area and slaughtered innocent civilians. It has provided no evidence to support its narrative, nor has it given a death toll.

USA og flere andre land reagerte med å utvise syriske diplomater. Det svekker regimets renommé internasjonalt.

Cranking up the pressure on Assad, the Obama administration gave Syria’s most senior envoy in Washington, the charge d’affaires at the Syrian Embassy, 72 hours to leave the United States. Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria also expelled Syrian diplomats.

Men det mest illevarslende med Houla kan være at det hadde sekteriske trekk: dvs. folkegruppe gikk løs på folkegruppe. Associated Press skriver at deler av Syria nå minner om Irak på det verste, og hvis sunnier og alawitter skulle gå løs på hverandre, med kristne som fritt vilt for begge, ser fremtiden ytterst mørk ut.

According to witnesses, the massacre, which began late Friday in an area about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the city of Homs, had dangerous sectarian overtones.

The victims lived in the Houla area’s Sunni Muslim villages. But the shabiha forces allegedly behind many of the killings came from an arc of nearby villages populated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Most shabiha fighters belong to the Alawite sect, to which the Assad family and the ruling elite also belong. This ensures the gunmen’s loyalty to the regime, built on fears they will be persecuted if the Sunni majority gains the upper hand.

Sunnis make up most of Syria’s 22 million people, as well as the backbone of the opposition. Even as much of the opposition insists the movement is entirely secular, disturbing reports from the ground suggest religious tensions are boiling over.

The volatile sectarian divide makes civil war one of the most dire scenarios.

Syrian massacre: diplomats expelled from Western nations
The US, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria all expelled diplomats in response to revelations that more than a 100 people were brutally killed in Houla, Syria, by Assad strongmen.

By Elizabeth A. Kennedy, The Associated Press / May 29, 2012

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