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Published June 01, 2012, 12:00 AM

Syrian security forces


In this April 30, 2012 file photo, Syrian security forces, background, hold their machine guns and surround anti-Syrian regime mourners, foreground, during the funeral procession of the activist Nour al-Zahraa, 23, who was shot by the Syrian security forces on Sunday, in Kfar Suseh area, in Damascus, Syria. The swaggering gunmen operate as hired muscle for the Syrian regime, clutching rifles and daggers as they sweep through towns and villages, seeking vengeance on enemies of Bashar Assad. Recruited from the ruling elite's Alawite sect, the militiamen known as "shabiha" carry out some of the most ghastly attacks of Syria's violent conflict, allowing the regime to deny any direct responsibility. Witnesses have blamed shabiha for the Houla massacre over the weekend. (AP Photo, File)
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