Syria engulfed in sectarian violenceListen /
The Syrian conflict is increasingly taking on a sectarian nature with various groups being forced to take up arms for their own defense or to take sides.
The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria says government forces and their supporting militia were attacking Sunni civilians, while anti-Government armed groups were attacking Alawites and other pro-Government minority communities, including Catholics, Armenian, Orthodox and the Druze.
In its latest update on the situation in the country, the commission says civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict as the front lines between Government forces and the armed opposition move deeper into urban areas.
The update highlights the increased presence of foreign fighters, some with links to extremist groups. It says most of the foreign fighters filtering into Syria to join the opposition ranks are Sunnis from countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The commission says it has considerable evidence on the use of torture, especially in Government-run detention centres in Damascus and summary executions by anti-Government armed groups.
The commission is calling for a negotiated political settlement to end the crisis, noting that the unrelenting violence has not only resulted in many dead, wounded and displaced, but also the destruction of several World Heritage sites.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.