Syrian rebels, including Sunni extremists, stormed a village and battled pro-regime militiamen, killing more than 60 Shiite fighters and civilians in an attack steeped in the sectarian hatreds that increasingly characterize the conflict, activists said Wednesday.
In the raid, which comes at a time when the West is worried that extremists are increasingly joining the rebellion, the victorious fighters raised black Sunni Islamist flags over the eastern village of Hatla. In amateur videos, the fighters — some wearing al-Qaida-style headbands — vented anti-Shiite slurs and fired in the air.
“The homes of the infidel Shiites were burned,” the voice behind the camera in one video shouted as smoke rose in the background from several houses.
The regime called it a “massacre,” and some opposition members expressed concern about the nature of the attack. The U.S. and other Western nations have been hesitant to arm the outgunned and outmanned rebels because of Sunni jihadi radicals among their ranks.
State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was “appalled by reports that rebels have killed 60 Shia in Hatla village.”