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UN Group Says Syria Using Militia to Incite Sectarian Warfare

JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) -- A United Nations inquiry team has charged that the Syrian government is staging sectarian warfare by utilizing local militias called Popular Committees.

In a statement Monday, commission head Paulo Pinheiro declared, "Mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones."

Generally, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has allegedly used Shabbiha militias to commit various atrocities against civilians as the two-year war widens.

However, in its latest report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, the inquiry team said the Popular Committee is different by mirroring "the ethnic, religious and class composition of the neighborhoods they protect."

Commission member Vitit Muntarbhorn added, "Some groups are exercising…civilian authority without due process of law, stressing that while the commission has listed 20 full-out massacres carried out by both sides, there have been “hundreds and hundreds of unlawful killings."

Since the U.N. cannot directly contact anyone in Damascus because of a news blackout, the inquiry team relied on testimonies from more than 1,500 refugees and exiles to compile its latest report.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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