November 2, 2011 / 11:00 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Syrian forces kill 11 villagers near Homs-activists

* Sunni labourers gagged and killed-YouTube footage

* Follows reported sectarian killing of Alawites

* Pro-Assad rallies organised in two cities (Updates death toll, adds quotes, details)

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Syrian security forces shot dead at least 11 Sunni Muslim villagers they had stopped at a roadblock northwest of the central city of Homs, local activists said on Wednesday.

There was no independent confirmation of the killings, but they follow a report by an activist in Homs that nine Alawites had been dragged from a bus and killed near the city on Tuesday. Assad’s Alawite sect dominates power in Sunni-majority Syria.

If confirmed, these would be among the worst incidences of sectarian violence since a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule erupted in March. Syria’s stringent media curbs make it hard to verify accounts of bloodshed by both sides.

However, Omar Idlibi, a Syrian activist in exile in Beirut, said the circumstances of the bus incident were not clear. He said the shooting had occurred near a main army roadblock and that the victims included at least one Sunni and two Christians.

A YouTube video distributed by anti-Assad activists purportedly showed several bodies, gagged and with their hands tied behind their backs, near the Sunni village of Kfar Laha outside Homs, a hotbed of protests and a nascent insurgency.

“They were workers at a small building blocks factory. The exact time of their death is not known, but it appears it was this morning,” Ahmad Fouad, an activist in Homs said by phone.

Another five people were killed on Wednesday in Homs where army tanks fired on old districts that have seen anti-Assad protests and that harbour army deserters, residents said.

The United Nations says over 3,000 people have been killed in Syria’s efforts to crush the seven-month-old revolt inspired by uprisings that have deposed three Arab leaders this year.

Authorities say militants armed and financed from abroad have killed 1,100 members of the security forces. Assad has said Islamist militants are behind much of the violence.

In the latest of several state-organised rallies to show Assad enjoys popular support nationwide, state television showed tens of thousands of people rallying in Syria’s eastern city of Raqqa, and in the mostly Ismaili city of Salamiya on Wednesday.

In Raqqa, huge Syrian flags hung from buildings and crowds waving Assad posters chanted “God, Syria, Bashar — that’s all”.

Additional reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Alistair Lyon

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