Druze Kill Syrian Troops After Bombings Kill Dozens, Including Top Cleric

Spiritual Leader Urged Druze to Stop Joining Military

Throughout the Syrian Civil War, there had been relative calm in the al-Suwayda Province, the primary home of the nation’s Druze minority. The Druze are largely seen as pro-government, and elsewhere in the country have been attacked by rebels as a consequence.

Suwayda is exploding in the past few days, however, after Friday saw a pair of car bombings killing 33 Druze civilians, including top religious leader Sheikh Wahid al-Balous. There was no claim of responsibility, but Balous was an outspoken opponent of the government, and had urged Druze to stop joining the military, which led to suspicion that he was killed by government forces.

Unrest is growing province-wide, and six Syrian troops were killed by Druze militant attacks late Saturday. Groups of Balous supporters have burned cars in front of many government offices in the area, and destroyed a statue of President Assad’s father in the main city.

An outright revolt against the government is bad news for the government, but may also be dangerous for the Druze, as they have few natural allies in the ever-splintering nation, and have regularly been targeted by Islamist rebel factions. There were unconfirmed reports that Balous was trying to forge ties with the rebel FSA, but their power is limited to a few small districts, and probably can’t offer the Druze much in the way of protection.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.