Syrian rebels attack village, killing dozens

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BEIRUT -- Syrian rebels, including Sunni extremists, stormed a village and battled pro-regime militiamen, killing more than 60 Shia fighters and civilians in an attack steeped in the sectarian hatreds that increasingly characterize the civil war, activists said yesterday.

In the raid Tuesday, which came as the West worries 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-Shia slurs and fired in the air.

"The homes of the infidel Shia were burned," the voice behind the camera in one video shouted as smoke rose from houses in the background.

In another video, the fighters pulled blankets off corpses to show them off. The videos appeared genuine and conformed with other reporting on the events depicted.

The attack on Hatla underlined the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict.

The regime called it a "massacre," and some opposition members expressed concern about the attack. The United States 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 Washington was "appalled by reports that rebels have killed 60 Shia in Hatla village."

Most of the armed rebels are Sunni, while President Bashar Assad has retained core support among the minorities, including those from an offshoot of Shia Islam. -- AP

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