An al Qaeda-linked rebel group has wrested control of the historic Christian town of Maaloula from regime forces, opposition groups said Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the hardline Islamist rebels of the al-Nusra Front seized control Saturday night. Videos posted on YouTube in recent days showed fighting between rebels and government forces in the tiny sleepy town, an hour’s drive from the capital Damascus.

"We cleansed Maaloula from all the Assad dogs and all his thugs," a rebel commander shouts at the camera in a video posted online over the weekend. What the capture will mean for the Christian residents waits to be seen. As the 18-month-long Syrian conflict festers, the government and the opposition welcome and need Christian support. But some Christians fear radical Islamists have been swelling rebel ranks. [Link]