March 28, 2012
Islamic militants with ties to al Qaeda have launched an "ethnic cleansing of minority Christians" in Syria, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee the city of Homs and other areas, BosNewsLife.com reports. According to local aid workers, at least 90 percent of Christians living in Homs have fled after being forced to leave their homes. "They have fled to villages and in the mountains, sometimes as far as 50 kilometers from their homes," Dutch aid group Church in Need said. "We have reports that Islamists 'cleansed' the Homs areas of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan without giving [Christians] the opportunity to take anything with them." Aid group Barnabas Fund said Christians had also been used as "human shields" by anti-government rebels -- known as the Free Syrian Army -- to prevent government forces from retaking control over the region. Christians have been viewed by critics as supportive of Syrian president Bashar Assad, and minorities fear an Islamic takeover should the rebels manage to overthrow the Assad regime.