More than 300 Syrians from different sectarian backgrounds may have been kidnapped in a rural area in northern Syria in just a few days, activists in the area told AFP on Saturday .
Reports of the number of Shiites and Sunnis kidnapped in neighboring villages in Idlib province  varies, ranging from a few dozen to more than 300.
The kidnappings will raise fears of a prolonged communal conflict, which could stretch on after the fall of the regime in Damascus , if President Bashar al-Assad is eventually forced to leave office.
The activists speaking to AFP said tensions in the area between Alawites - an offshoot of Shia Islam which Assad belongs to - and Sunnis were rare in the area before the crisis began in March 2011.
The recent wave of kidnappings was started when unknown armed men  stopped a bus carrying Alawite civilians, taking hostage all its passengers, including women and children.
"Before, it was all militiamen catching rebels. It was all part of the war," activist Bahaideen Abdel-Razaq in the village of Sarmeen told AFP via Skype. "But kidnapping of women and children had never happened before."