Damascus, May 19: At least 82 people, including women and children, have been killed in horrific attacks by Islamic State jihadists in western Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday.
At least 25 villagers died including five children and four women "in shelling, shooting and executions" on Thursday in the villages of Aqareb al-Safi and al-Mabouja in Homs province, the UK-based monitor said.
At least three of the civilians, a man and his two children, were executed with knives in Mabouja, about 15 km from the city of al-Salamiya, according to the monitor.
A total of 27 pro-government militiamen and villagers, four Bedouin and 26 IS militants were killed in the violent clashes in Hama's eastern countryside - the worst seen since a similar bloodbath there two years ago, the monitor added.
"The death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in a critical condition and others are still missing," said the monitor.
IS's Amaq news agency said the militants captured Aqareb al-Safi and Mabouja and claimed 100 Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen were killed in the fighting.
Aqareb al-Safi and Mabouja are home to members of several religious minorities, notably Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Shia Alawite sect, whom IS consider apostates deserving death.
IS killed dozens of people and executed 46 civilians including 10 women and children in Mabouja in April 2015, the monitor said.
The Sunni extremist group has slaughtered thousands of Shia and other opponents in Syria and Iraq, often boasting about the killings and circulating photos and videos of them online.