Shiite Villagers Form Militia Amid Rising Tensions in Homs

Sectarian tensions boil in the countryside of Homs as Shiite villagers take up arms, say activists

Shiite villages in Homs province formed a new militia this week with the primary goal of attacking neighboring Sunni villages in the northern countryside, activists claim.

Media activist Mahmoud al-Lawz said at least six Shiite villages in the countryside of Homs had formed the al-Ridha brigade without any participation from Alawite militants or regime forces.

Meanwhile, residents of Sunni villages have expressed concern over the imminent offensive since most Shiite villages have imposed a security cordon for the past months.

In response, rebels have weighed possible scenarios, admitting the risks since all Sunni-dominated countryside is surrounded by villages loyal to the Assad regime.

The Syrian city of Homs, dubbed the “Capital of the Revolution" by rebels, has been a key flashpoint since the beginning of the Syrian revolution almost four years ago.

Homs also sits on a fault line of sectarian tensions mainly divided along confessional lines, with Sunni, Alawite, Christian and mixed neighborhoods restively existing side by side.

Sunnis consider themselves to be the city’s true inhabitants, and have never taken kindly to the mass-influx of Alawites – members of a Shiite sect to which President Assad also belongs – to Homs and its surrounding districts since the late 1960s.

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