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At least 60 Shiites killed in clashes with rebels in Syria:

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At least 60 Shiite residents of a village in eastern Syria were killed in clashes with rebel forces, a day after they attacked an opposition post, a watchdog group said.

"Armed Shiite villagers attacked a nearby rebel post yesterday and killed two. Today rebels attacked the village and took control of it, killing 60 Shiite residents, most of them fighters," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP yesterday.

The clashes came in the majority Sunni village of Hatlah, in eastern Deir Ezzor province.

At least 10 rebels were also killed in the fighting yesterday, and in the wake of the violence, Shiite residents of Hatlah were fleeing, Abdul Rahman said.

The Syrian government, which has been battling an uprising for more than two years, has created local militias in some parts of the country, training and arming sympathetic communities.

The conflict pits a Sunni-dominated opposition against the Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, who comes from the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

The fighting has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones as it has continued, with both sides accusing the other of carrying out massacres of different religious communities.

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