Beirut: Al-Qaeda fighters and their allies shot dead 19 civilians from President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority in their own homes after seizing their village in central Syria, a monitor said today.
Other villagers were kidnapped following the assault in which eight pro-regime militiamen were killed trying to defend Al-Zara in Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"During the attack, they entered houses and opened fire on families, killing at least 19 civilians, including six women," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
State news agency SANA condemned the "massacre" of villagers in Hama, which like neighbouring Homs province is mainly Sunni but has a significant Alawite minority.
"Terrorist groups infiltrated Al-Zara and carried out a massacre as well as destruction and pillage," it reported.
The five-year civil war in Syria has enflamed sectarian resentment between the country's Sunni majority and the Alawite minority that is the main prop of the Assad regime.
The Alawites -- followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam who are mainly concentrated in the Mediterranean coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus -- are despised as heretics by the Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda.