Syrian activists say regime troops backed by pro-government gunmen have killed dozens of people, including women and children, in a village near the Mediterranean coast.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says forces loyal to President Bashar Assad took over the predominantly Sunni Muslim village of Bayda outside the city of Banias on Thursday.

Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman says the villagers who fled said at least 50 people were killed and they expected the death toll to rise.

Syria's more than 2-year-old conflict has largely split down sectarian lines, pitting a regime dominated by Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a predominantly Sunni rebellion.

The Observatory reported fighting earlier in the day around Bayda that killed at least six government troops and wounded 20 more.