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Sectarian cleansing in Syria's coastal region?

My column* this week in The National discusses the carnage in the Syrian coastal area of Banias over the weekend committed by pro-regime militias, probably led by a Turkish man called Mihraç Ural. Ural is known for activists in the area. He leads a militia, called the Syrian Resistance. He has recorded messages to the Syrian rebels warning them against taking the fight to President Bashar Al Assad's heartland. 

 It does seem that the regime is carrying out acts of sectarian cleansing. The purpose of these acts, however, is not to pave the way for a potential Alawite state as some have suggested, but for other reasons entirely. For more on the dynamics in the coastal region to explain the motives behind those serial massacres, read the full article

 This is a photo of Mihraç Ural (middle) with Alawite religious leaders (on his left and right). As mentioned in the article, he also appeared in a video giving instructions to his group about the battles in Banias and the necessity of "cleansing the area". There are signs the talk was rehearsed to send a certain message. (Read the article for more on that.)

Also  with him in the video, the man with the mustache on the right and the tall religious leader on his right. The lighting in the video makes it difficult to identify the faces of the other militiamen. Activists point to him as the perpetrator of this week's carnage. If true, he is a vicious sub-human who seems to be deliberately taking photos with Alawite religious leaders.

Also, as far as I know, this is the first time Alawite religious leaders associate themselves so openly with pro-regime informal militias that carry out acts of sectarian cleansing. The religious leaders, however, seem to be there for photo opportunity as they did not speak or comment. There are numerous photographs and videos of him making similar statements of indiscriminate killing against the "traitors", which implies being opposed to the regime regardless whether they are fighters or civilians.

Hassan Hassan
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