Is Syria's uprising taking a sectarian turn?(VIDEO)
Weekend violence in Homs reportedly stemmed from tensions between Sunnis and Alawites. Some activists say the government is intentionally stirring up sectarian fighting.
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A weekend of fatal sectarian clashes in the Syrian city of Homs was followed by a military operation last night that increased the city's death toll by at least 10.
The clashes between Sunnis and its Alawites, a minority sect that includes the Assad family, threaten the mostly nonviolent nature of the antigovernment uprising that began in March.
But activists argue that the regime is intentionally trying to incite sectarian fighting in hopes that the threat of further clashes would cause Syrians to turn toward the regime as a guarantor of stability, Bloomberg reports. The government has repeatedly blamed the violence on religious extremists and foreign saboteurs trying to stir up sectarian strife – something the repressive regime has kept a lid on for decades.
Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, told Bloomberg that Shabeeha, a group of gunmen with close ties to the government, entered Homs on Monday night and have "tried to foment divisions between the Alawites and the Sunnis, and between Muslims and Christians."
"There is no sectarian fighting," he said. "The government is trying to promote tension to legitimize the use and entry of its army into all areas."
The Local Coordination Committees, the largest activist group, issued a statement, saying "The games and dirty practices of the regime in order to incite a sectarian fight to divide the citizens of (Homs) won’t work … We reaffirm the peaceful nature of the revolution," according to The Washington Post.
The Syrian government has long blamed almost all of the protests on what it calls “armed gangs,” and repeatedly warns that continued unrest could lead to civil war. Democracy activists accuse the government of promoting sectarian tensions in order to justify the brutal tactics used to suppress protests, and to dissuade the international community from backing the protesters’ demands for Assad’s fall.