The ancient Christian town of Sadad was the site of significant battles today, after al-Qaeda raided and captured the town yesterday, killing at least nine locals.
According to residents, when al-Qaeda came they took to the town square with loudspeakers, ordering everyone to return to their homes, then killing anyone that was still on the streets.
Sadad lies roughly between Damascus and Homs, and had no military or police. The town is not far from some military arms depots, however, and rebel spokesmen claimed al-Qaeda’s occupation was for “military reasons,” not religious ones.
That may well be the case, but for locals the sudden arrival of al-Qaeda is definitely not welcomed. Islamists have often accused Christians of siding with the Assad government, and this has made them a target on multiple occasions, forcing many to flee when rebels take over their territory.
Even by Syrian standards, Sedad is a particularly ancient town, dating back to at least the early Iron age. The relative isolation of the town has kept it largely Syriac Orthodox, and Aramaic is still the language of choice among the locals.