(Associated Press) Syrian troops backed by pro-government gunmen swept into a Sunni village in the mountains near the Mediterranean coast on Thursday, killing dozens of people, including women and children, and torching homes, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 50 people — and possibly as many as 100 — were killed in the violence in Bayda, a village outside the city of Banias. It cited witnesses who said some of the dead were killed with knives or blunt objects and that dozens of villagers were still missing.

Syria’s civil war has largely split the country down religious lines, and the violence in Bayda appeared to have sectarian overtones. The village is primarily inhabited by Sunni Muslims, who dominate the country’s rebel movement, while most of the surrounding villages are home to members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

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