Rebels seize Alawite village in Syria, abduct civilians: Observatory

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Insurgents captured an Alawite village from government control in western Syria on Thursday and abducted civilians living there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Government forces and their allies were still fighting insurgents nearby after the capture of al-Zara, which lies close to a main highway linking the western cities of Homs and Hama, the British-based monitoring group said.

Several government fighters and a number of the rebels, who included the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, had been killed and government warplanes and helicopters were carrying out air raids in and around al-Zara, it said. The insurgents had also captured government fighters.

The village of al-Zara is about 35 km (22 miles) north of Homs and a similar distance south of Hama.

Government forces and their allies have battled insurgents around the highway between the two cities, and towns in the area were among the first hit when Russia’s air force intervened in the Syrian war last September.

The Observatory said the insurgent attack was part of an assault they called “revenge for Aleppo”, a reference to the northern city where an escalation of violence by both government aligned forces and insurgents has killed scores of people in recent weeks.

Writing by Tom Perry and John Davison; Editing by Louise Ireland