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Syria: Dozens of bodies filmed as opposing sides blame each other for massacre

Footage posted online but not independently verified purports to show rows of bodies lined up at a graveyard and sprawled on Syrian streets.

A Syrian rebel sleeps at a rebel HQ in the outskirts of Aleppo.
A Syrian rebel sleeps at a rebel HQ in the outskirts of Aleppo.
Image: Muhammed Muheisen/AP/Press Association Images

GRAPHIC IMAGES HAVE emerged today of dozens of bodies sprawled in the streets and lined up at a graveyard in a Damascus satellite town, with activists accusing the regime of carrying out a massacre and pro-government television blaming “terrorists”.

In the most grisly video, posted by opposition media outlet Sham, rows of bodies were seen at a graveyard in the town of Daraya southwest of Damascus, many of them bloodied and disfigured, with large patches of skin charred black.

One body was seen on top of a length of jagged corrugated iron, a mangled hand and bloody arm visible from beneath a blanket, according to the Sham video, whose authenticity could not be verified.

The cameraman said the victims had been killed by army shelling on Daraya, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 320 people were killed in a five-day onslaught by regime forces.

“The regime’s army has been transformed into an occupation army that battles Syrians and destroys their lives and communities,” said the Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground. ”The shabiha militias have been transformed… into a killing machine that threatens the Syrian people and our future.”

Attacks

But in a 15-minute broadcast from Daraya on Sunday that showed bodies on the streets, pro-government Al-Dunia television interviewed residents including children and said that “terrorists” had carried out the attacks in the mainly Sunni Muslim town of about 200,000 people.

“Like every time we enter an area, the terrorists have already carried out what they do best: crime, murder and in the name of freedom,” said a female reporter, dressed in a baby-blue flak jacket.

She walked down streets strewn with bloodied corpses, stopping for the camera to zoom in on a man shot dead in the front seat of his van, his head resting against an open window with streams of blood dried on the side of the door.

With classical music playing in the background and the headline “Daraya is purified of terrorists” the channel showed a man whose head had been crushed, sprawled on the ground alongside his motorcycle.

A woman surrounded by her children told the reporter that her family had fled their home after “armed men” told them the security forces were coming to kill them.

“The security forces did come, God save them, and they transported us home with them,” the woman said.

The journalist approached two children who lay alongside the body of their mother on the back of a vehicle.

“Who is this?” the reporter asked the young girl, still in shock. She feebly answered “mama”, before being carried onto a stretcher.

A soldier picking up the body of a child faced the camera: “They kill women and children in cold blood, while the whole world watches.”

“The army protects us,” a man said hastily, surrounded by soldiers.

Eight bodies which had been found burned were actually Pakistani and Afghani fighters, one soldier said: “The rebels burned them to avoid foreigners being discovered in their ranks.”

But an LCC activist in Daraya, Mohamed Shehadeh, said government forces carried out the killings during door-to-door raids on Saturday, after the Free Syrian Army withdrew from the area. ”Security forces entered basements, arresting people and carrying out executions,” he said.

Shehadeh filmed footage of bloodied bodies lined up wall-to-wall in the dimly lit rooms of a mosque complex in the town.

“There are more than 150 martyrs now in this mosque in Daraya,” he said from behind the camera, treading carefully between the corpses, many of them swaddled in blankets and others half dressed, their limbs splayed haphazardly apart.

The bodies, which including 19 women and three children, bore no wounds aside from the large holes in their chests or heads, the activist told AFP, “which indicates they were killed at close range.”

“There was another group of people hiding in the basement of a building 100 metres away from the mosque, and they were slaughtered by government troops, according to the neighbours,” the activist added.

He said that calm had returned to the area.

In another video uploaded by the LCC, Daraya’s dead, among them at least two children, were being prepared for burial in mass graves.  Palm leaves were strewn on top of the bodies that were covered in blankets and laid to rest in a hastily dug trench.

- (c) AFP, 2012

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