A YouTube video was distributed by the activists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad purportedly showed several bodies, gagged and with their hands tied behind their backs, near the village of Kfar Laha in the Houla region- a pro democracy area.
Their killing followed the reports by an activist in Homs, and on pro-Assad social network pages, that nine members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect had been dragged from a bus and killed by the gunmen near Homs on Tuesday.
The nine people killed on Wednesday were all Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of the Syria’s population.
“The individuals killed were used to work in a small building blocks factory. The exact time of their death is not known, but it appears to be the early hours in this morning,” Ahmad Fouad, an activist in Homs reported from 140 kilometres north of Damascus by phone.
According to the United Nations more than 3,000 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown in an uprising which erupted in March against his rule, inspired by revolutions which have toppled three Arab leaders this year.
Authorities blame militants who they claim are armed and financed from abroad, and have killed 1,100 members of the security forces.
Omar Idlibi, a prominent activist in exile in Beirut, said the circumstances of the bus incident were not clear but the shooting had occurred near a main army roadblock and had killed nine people including at least one Sunni and two Christians.
Members of Assad’s Alawite sect are an offshoot of Islam and dominate the state, the military and other key sectors of the economy and the security apparatus, now underpins Assad’s power base, as he faces a seven-month uprising against his repressive rule.
In the latest of a series of state-organised rallies designed to show Assad enjoys popular support nationwide, state television showed tens of thousands of people rallying in Syria’s eastern city of Raqqa on Wednesday.
Huge national flags were draped from buildings and people waved posters of Assad and national flags, chanting “God, Syria, Bashar – that’s all”.
Assad, who has used tanks and troops to crush protests across the country, has repeatedly said he is facing a foreign conspiracy to sow sectarian strife and that he was using legitimate force to put down the unrest.
His opponents say the political system has become more sectarian and family-based under his 11-year rule.