Residents attend a burial ceremony for what activists say are victims of shelling by the Syrian army
Shelling victims laid out for a mass burial

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's own religious sect has turned against him after the latest massacre in the city of Homs.

With troops stepping up their murderous crackdown, support for the regime is slowly slipping away, and the Alawite community in Homs has condemned the killings.

Following days of shelling by security forces and hundreds of deaths, the Alawite community of Homs has turned on the regime and voiced support for the revolution. Assad belongs to the Alawite sect.

"We, the citizens, political activists and intellectuals from the Alawite sect in Homs and the surrounding suburbs of the coastal cities strongly condemn the massacres committed by Bashar al-Assad," the community said in a statement.

"We condemn the bombardment of our city, the brave city of Homs, where hundreds were martyred and hundreds more wounded, including women and children. These are oppressed, innocent Syrians that have been affected. We condemn the massacres and raids committed by the regime in Damascus, Hama, Idlib, and all the Syrian cities and towns," the group said.

The group warned that Assad was "using Alawite-dominated neighbourhoods in Homs to launch its assaults on the remaining neighbourhoods and surrounding areas. It has been doing so to spark sectarian revenge among the people of Homs".

The group called on army officers to defect and warned that it held Russia responsible for "each child, woman and man murdered by their bullets and weapons". Russia, along with China, vetoed the Security Council resolution calling on Assad to step down.

Sunni Muslims make up 74 percent of Syria's 22 million population, Alawites 12 percent, Christians 10 percent and Druze 3 percent. Other groups include Ismailis, Yezidis and Jews.

Assad, himself part of the Alawite sect, has filled senior political and military posts with Alawites, playing on sectarian loyalty to consolidate his power.

Even though various groups have joined the anti-regime protests, the majority of the demonstrators have remained Sunni.

By issuing a statement against their president, Hom's Alawite community has now openly turned against the regime.

The Syrian regime has stepped up its efforts to crush the uprising leaving hundreds of civilians dead, activists reported. At least 200 people were killed on 4 February in Homs alone.

A further 50 deaths have been reported in the city.