DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Sami Amir is used to the sound of Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It's the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.
The mortars have battered his mainly Christian district of Damascus, reportedly killing at least 32 people in the past two weeks.
The shelling and rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels opposing President Bashar Assad's rule. Christians believe they're being targeted because of anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and as punishment for what is seen as Christian support for Assad.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's 23 million people, and Syrian church leaders fear that Assad's fall would lead to an Islamist state that would spell the end to the centuries-old existence of Christians on Syrian soil.
223-a-16-(Bishop Armash Nalbandian (AHR'-mash nahl-BAN'-dee-ehn), Armenian church of Old Damascus, in AP interview)-"in the prayer"-Bishop Armash Nalbandian of the Armenian church says the crisis reflects on the lives of his church's faithful. (28 Oct 2013)
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224-a-13-(Sami Amir (SAH'-mee AH'-meer), Syrian Christian, in AP interview)-"against the regime"-Sami Amir, a Christian in Damascus, says he's scared to death of the shellings his neighborhood receives from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood. (28 Oct 2013)
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225-r-06-(Sound of church bell ringing, at church in Old Damascus)--Sound of a church bell ringing as worshipers make their way to a Christian church in an area called Old Damascus. (28 Oct 2013)
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