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Terrorism & Security

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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President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on the protest movement has left at least 1,600 people dead, the Associated Press reports.

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The Army first entered Homs, one of the most consistently defiant cities in the uprising, about two months ago. Reports about the number of people who died in the weekend fighting range from as many as 30 (Associated Press) to as few as seven (Bloomberg). Activists in Homs rejected the higher death toll.

According to The Washington Post's account, the weekend violence began when a group of Alawites surrounded a Sunni mosque in Homs on Friday, chanting anti-Sunni slogans. In response, Sunnis abducted three Alawites and killed them, prompting a looting and burning of Sunni shops. Sunnis and Alawites who were the minority in their neighborhoods have fled to other parts of the city where their religious is dominant.

The Guardian reports that the opposition has been criticized for downplaying the tension between Syria's Sunni majority and Alawite minority. While the movement, until this weekend, was nonsectarian and peaceful, some activists admitted to the Guardian that it has been challenging to "keep it that way."

The task has been particularly difficult in mixed cities such as Homs and in cities along the coast, "the heart of the Alawi homeland," the Guardian notes. Homs is the most religiously mixed city in Syria. The Assad regime has tried to rally support among ambivalent Alawites by warning them that they will be in danger if the Alawite regime falls.

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