Syria’s ‘Ghost’ killers: Steroid-mad thugs who keep tyrant al-Assad’s murderous regime in power are terrorizing civilians
Death squads have swooped on villages and massacred women and children - slitting their throats or shooting them at point-blank range
Vanishing with the remains of their slaughtered victims, President al-Assad's pumped up monsters are roaming Syria committing atrocities.
The death squads known as the Ghosts have swooped on villages and massacred women and children - slitting their throats or shooting them at point-blank range.
They disappear with the hacked remains in an effort to cover up their brutality. But experts say there is no mistaking the sickening work of these bearded paramilitary freaks.
Dressed in their unofficial uniform of combat trousers and black T-shirts the muscle-bound thugs are the butchers of Assad's regime.
They carry out the government's dirty work so the President can claim the rampages are not state sponsored.
Armed with AK-47s and machetes they travel behind the military. After the army stops shelling towns, the Ghosts swarm in to kill any survivors.
They are each paid around Â£130Â a day, a fortune in Syria. The funds often come from businessmen who support Assad's regime.
Established in the 70s, they were a Mafia style gang in the coastal port of Latakia, the centre of the Assad family's power base.
They are known as Shabiha - meaning "ghosts" - as they operate in the shadows.
"They used to smuggle weapons and drugs but now they are butchers," said Michael Weiss, a Syria expert at the UK-based Henry Jackson Society. In return for letting them operate above the law, the Shabiha act as Assad's enforcers. They murder opponents and terrorise Syrians into obedience. The Ghosts are fanatical followers of the Muslim Alawite sect which rules the country and have been brainwashed into thinking the Sunni majority are enemies.
Now the Shabiha, who can be seen in action in videos, are being told they are fighting for their lives as they will face revenge if the regime is overthrown. A source said: "Their mission is to terrorise the civilian population and conduct ethnic cleansing."
They have been blamed for the murders of 108 civilians - including 49 children - in Houla a fortnight ago. The Shabiha are then reported to have shot dead 12 workers in Qusayr before 78 villagers were slaughtered in Qubair last week.
Dr Mousab Azzawi, who runs the Syrian Network for Human Rights from London but had treated some of the Shabiha in Latakia, said recently: "They were like monsters. They had huge muscles, and big bellies and beards.
"They were very tall and frightening and took steroids to pump up their bodies. I had to talk to them like children as the Shabiha likes people with low intelligence. That is what makes them so terrifying - the combination of strength and blind allegiance to the regime."