DAMASCUS- Al-Qaida fighters and other ultraconservative Sunni insurgents seized a predominantly Alawite village in central Syria on Thursday, sparking fears of sectarian violence as families from the village were reported missing by activists.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said "terrorists" were killing residents of the village of Zaara, previously controlled by the government.
Syrian state media said insurgents had looted and destroyed homes.
Clashes continued into the afternoon as government or allied Russian aircraft pounded rebel positions, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that seven militants were killed. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist-run network, said the insurgents killed over 30 pro-government fighters in the clashes.