UN observers have found another 13 bound corpses in eastern Syria, many of them seemingly shot execution- style, said the monitoring mission.
The news comes days after a massacre in Houla, in the central Homs province, which killed more than 100 people and prompted global condemnation against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government denied its troops were behind the killings and blamed “armed terrorists”.
The killings apparently happened in Deir el-Zour province. The corpses were found with their hands tied behind their backs, a statement by the UN mission said. Some appeared to have been shot in the head.
The head of the UN observer team, Major General Robert Mood, said he was “deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act”.
The violence in Syria is spiralling out of control as an uprising against al-Assad that began in Mar 2011 has morphed into an armed insurgency.
In the wake of the Houla massacre, the US and several other countries expelled Syrian diplomats to protest the killings. Survivors blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of the carnage in Houla. Violence also continued elsewhere unabated.
Damascus had said it would conclude its own investigation into the Houla deaths. It was not clear if the findings would be made public.
Syria’s state-run media denounced the expulsions as “unprecedented hysteria”.
The US, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria ordered top Syrian diplomats to leave on Tuesday. Turkey, Syria’s neighbour and a former ally, has also joined the protest. It closed its embassy in Damascus in March and withdrew the ambassador.
The Foreign Ministry said it ordered the Syrian charge d’affaires and other diplomats at the Syrian embassy in Ankara to leave Syria within 72 hours.
The consulate in Istanbul will remain open for consular duties only.
The Foreign Ministry said it also reduced the number of its personnel in the consulate in Aleppo, Syria.
Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said new unspecified sanctions might be imposed against Syria in the coming days. The world “cannot remain silent in the face of such a situation,” he said.
Japan also ordered the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo to leave the country because of concerns about violence. Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Genba, said his country was not, however, breaking off diplomatic ties with Syria.
Syria’s ally, Russia, criticised the diplomatic moves. “The banishment of Syrian ambassadors from the capitals of leading Western states seems to us to be a counterproductive step,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan met with al-Assad on Tuesday in Damascus to try to salvage what was left of his peace plan, which since being brokered six weeks ago has failed to stop any of the violence on the ground.
The Al-Baath daily, the mouthpiece of al-Assad’s Baath Party, said Syria won’t be intimidated by such “violent rhythms” and would remain standing in front of such “ugly, bloody and dramatic shows”.
Al-Thawra, the government’s newspaper blasted the Western decision, calling it an “escalation that aims to besiege Annan’s plan and enflame a civil war”.
Tensions have escalated as more information emerges about the killings in Houla.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there are strong suspicions pro-Assad fighters were responsible for some of the killings.
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