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Al-Qaida group kills 20 in Syria

At least 20 Druze villagers have been killed by al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front, according to activists and opposition groups.

The killings happened in the Druze village of Qalb Lawzeh in the Jabal al-Summaq region, where Nusra Front fighters have dug up historic graves and destroyed shrines in recent months.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shootings occurred after the Nusra Front tried to confiscate the home of a Druze government official in the village.

It said fighters shot one villager dead, prompting another villager to grab one of the fighters' rifles and kill a member of the jihadi group.

The Observatory said the jihadis later brought reinforcements and opened fire, killing 20 residents.

The main Western-backed Syrian National Coalition said "dozens of Druze young men" were killed in the shooting. It said an armed clash broke out "following an aggression by Nusra Front members".

The Druze, a 10th century offshoot of Shiite Islam, made up about 5% of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million people. Lebanon and Israel also have large Druze communities.

The head of the Druze community in Lebanon, Sheikh Naim Hassan, condemned the killings and said efforts are being made to "contain this regrettable and painful incident".

Activists estimate that several hundred Druze have been forced to convert to Sunni Islam since the Nusra Front seized the area last year.

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