Islamic State group militants killed at least 44 people Tuesday in Mabuja, a government-held village in central Syria.
The violent Islamist group launched the attack in a region which is known for its diverse religious sects, including Christian, Ismailis and Alawites.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Islamic State group shot, burned or stabbed the victims, which included 37 civilians, many of whom were women and children. The Director of the Syrian Observatory said that there were villagers who were missing, but he could not be sure if they had been abducted or killed.
A few days before, the Islamic State group released a video showing its fighters beheading eight men it said were Shiite Muslims. An Islamic State group militant said the Shiite victims were “impure infidels,” and added, “Our swords will soon, God willing, reach the Nuseiries and their allies like Bashar and his party.” He was referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrian government forces carried out airstrikes and surface-to-surface missiles on the city of Idlib, which has been controlled by a coalition of rebel groups, “Fattah Army,” for the past couple of days. The coalition included Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra Front. At least 23 people were killed by the Syrian government's shellings and missile attacks. There were also allegations by journalists and activists that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the bombings. Assad recently denied these allegations last Sunday in an interview with CBS network’s Charlie Rose, host of “60 Minutes.”
The Islamic State group for the past year has been taking over large swathes of Syria and Iraq, with the aim of establishing an Islamic state. Since last summer, the U.S. has led a coalition to conduct air strikes against the Islamic State group.