The death toll from an alleged massacre in an Alawite village in central Syria has risen to 22, including women, children and elderly men, a rights monitoring group said on Thursday.
The minority Alawite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and most of Syria's elite belong is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam whose members have increasingly been targeted by radical fighters among the Sunni Muslim-dominated opposition in the 2-1/2-year revolt against Assad.
Fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front shot dead 16 Alawites and six Arab Bedouins on Tuesday after storming the village of Maksar al-Hesan, east of the city of Homs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is opposed to Assad.
The British-based Observatory said the victims included seven women, three men over the age of 65, and four children under the age of 16, citing residents and medics.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, said the victims had been shot in their homes, and that they were not members of any pro-Assad militias. Activists in Homs had said on Wednesday that the dead were all from pro-government militias.
Al Qaeda-linked groups have launched an "Eye for an Eye" campaign, which they say is to take revenge for an apparent chemical weapons attack in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus in which of civilians died. The opposition and Western powers blame Assad's forces for the strike.
Most of the revenge attacks have targeted Alawite areas.
Syrian state television reported that government forces had retaken the village on Wednesday, killing a number of rebels, who they said were mostly foreign fighters.
(Reporting By Stephen Kalin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)