Regime-backed militia does Syria’s ‘dirty work,’ analysts say
“The regime uses them for the real dirty work, killing and violent action, especially where it has to go into an urban area and repress resistance,” said Jeff White, defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Blamed for their participation in the Houla and Qubeir massacres and other assaults, there may be tens of thousands of them, mostly but not all members of the Alawite sect that dominates the government, analysts say. …
Weiss said the government has been blaming the violence across Syria on anti-regime forces. But he said the Shabiha, in fact, “are the armed gangs” terrorizing the populace. Sometimes Shabiha wear fatigue pants and T-shirts and have been seen on army tanks. They drive around in white pickups brandishing weapons, Weiss said, and they look like “muscleheads with bulging physiques.” Many have shaved heads and sport thick black beards. The beards are a confusing touch, Weiss said, because they “want to look like Salafists” so people will think they are the fundamentalist Sunnis they dislike and blame for violence.