The prosecution of 20 members from the Druze community in Syria's northwest Idlib province by al-Qaeda’s affiliates in the country has been harshly condemned by the Nusra Front in an official statement, AFP has reported.
In order to avert further fear in the region, the Nusra Front described the action as a “clear violation of the leadership's views.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the residents in the village of Qalb Lawzah were gathered by a Tunisian Nusra Front leader, who accused them of sympathising with Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"The Tunisian leader gathered his men and accused the Druze residents of the village of blasphemy and opened fire on them, killing at least 20 people, among them elderly people and at least one child," SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
As soon as the incident occurred, the Nusra Front sent a committee to the town and apologised for the unapproved actions of its commander and ensured the safety of people, promising to judge the offenders.
"This village and its people are still safe under our protection and in areas under our control. Everyone who was involved in this incident will be referred to an Islamic court and will be held accountable," Nusra Front officials said.
Most parts of the Idlib province are under the control of a coalition of Syrian opposition forces that includes the Nusra Front.
Abu Mohamed al-Golani, the leader of the Nusra Front, said in a televised interview that his group would protect minorities (including the Druze) and Alawites who "leave (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad."