Conflicting accounts emerged on Wednesday of the reported killing of a number of pro-government Shiite people in a village in Deir El-Zor, in the north-east of Syria.
Zaman al-Wasl opposition website reported that the Free Syrian Army had killed 16 armed, pro-Assad Shiite militiamen, known as 'Shabiha', in the town of Hatla, in Deir El-Zor province.
The London-based opposition-aligned Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 60 Shiites were killed in the attack and at least 10 rebels were killed.
Zaman al-Wasl confirmed that the Shiite loyalists died in clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters who launched a surprise attack on Hatla in response to an attack led by the Shabiha forces on another Free Syrian Army base that killed four fighters and wounded 14 others from the al-Qadisiyah Brigade.
But the SANA official news agency reported that the extremist Al-Qaeda aligned Nusra Front was responsible for the massacre.
An official source told SANA on Wednesday that Nusra Front terrorist groups attacked the families and citizens in Hatla, killing 30 people, among them women and children, because they had refused to support their "hostile acts which target civilians."
The source reportedly said that the "terrorists" had also looted and burglarized homes and public property.
Meanwhile, a Syrian army unit clashed with an armed terrorist group in the neighborhoods of al-Sinaa, near the old Airport, Sheikh Yassen and al-Hamadiyah in Deir El-Zor, killing a number of terrorists, the agency reported.
Hassan Hassan, Syria researcher and a columnist for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, wrote on his personal blog that a rebel armed group calling itself 'As-Sadiq Al-Ameen' had committed what appeared to be a "massacre" against Shiite civilians in Deir El-Zor.
According to a video that emerged on Tuesday, the group appeared to target civilians solely because they are Shiite.
Hassan wrote that residents said the group was still chasing other Shiites who had escaped the carnage, and called on the Syrian opposition leadership to intervene via representatives in Deir Al-Zor to prevent more killing.
Hatla was the first and only village to covert to Shia Islam in Deir Al-Zor. The province is predominately Sunni Arab and mostly tribal, along with a few Kurdish families. Hatla residents mostly belong to the Baghara tribe, one of the main tribes in eastern Syria, but are the subject of hostility from surrounding areas due to their conversion to Shia Islam.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer