Dozens of civilians in the Syrian city of Homs were killed in cold blood, the government and opposition said yesterday, disputing responsibility for what both sides called a massacre during a visit from UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan.
“There are grave and appalling reports of atrocities and abuses,” Annan told reporters in Ankara before meeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
“Killings of civilians must end now. The world must send a clear and united message that this is simply unacceptable.”
Activists in Homs and Syrian TV showed videos of bloodied bodies, their hands tied behind their backs, lying on streets and in blood-spattered rooms. Opposition groups also uploaded videos of corpses being wrapped in white shrouds as crowds lined up to pray for the dead, who are believed to have been killed late on Sunday.
“The Syrian government has failed to fulfil its responsibility to protect its own people and instead has subjected its citizens in several cities to military assault and disproportionate use of force,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. “These shameful operations continue.”
Government restrictions on media access have made it hard to assess conflicting reports by the authorities and activists of the mass killing reported yesterday.
A medical worker in Homs working in the rebel-held neighbourhood of Khalidiya said many victims were killed with knives and some of the women appeared to have been raped: “We received the bodies in two batches... we tried to go to see if there were any survivors but they were all dead:
“I saw two females who were raped, one was around 12 or 13 years old. She was covered in blood and her underclothes were off. One of the women was strangled; she had bruises on her neck. Some of the bodies I saw, especially the children, had their throats slit.”
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton rejected Moscow and Beijing’s effort to have international blame for the violence apportioned evenly between rebels and the government. She is to meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the UN meeting.
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