Syrian soldiers massacre over 100 villagers
Published 22/12/2011 | 05:00
SYRIAN troops were last night accused of massacring an entire village in an attack involving rockets, machine guns and tanks.
They surrounded the unarmed villagers in a valley and killed all those trapped inside -- more than 100 people -- in a barrage that lasted for hours.
The slaughter in the Zawiya mountains near the Turkish border is perhaps the single deadliest incident of the nine-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
It came as Syria's army escalated a major offensive in the north of the country that has killed at least 250 government opponents in 48 hours, prompting France to describe the bloodletting as "a massacre on an unprecedented scale".
According to human rights groups and local residents, the Syrian army attacked the village of Kfar Owaid in the Zawiya Mountains on Tuesday.
A group of 110 people, a mixture of activists organising protests against the regime and villagers, managed to escape, taking refuge in a nearby valley.
But they were hunted down by soldiers who surrounded them and then opened fire with artillery, tank shells and guns. Activists said the group made frantic phone calls for four hours, appealing for help that never came.
One villager who arrived at the scene afterwards said those who had survived the initial onslaught had their hands tied behind their back before being beheaded.
"Everybody was dead," he said. "Nobody survived. There were bodies everywhere."
The military offensive appears to have been ordered after defecting soldiers fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, whose headquarters lie across the nearby Turkish border, seized control of a number of villages in the north of the country.
On Monday, at least 60 soldiers were killed after attempting to stage a mass defection from their base in Idlib province, to the east of the Zawiya Mountains.
Syria's main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council, called on the United Nations Security Council to convene in emergency session to formulate an urgent response.
It urged the creation of "safe zones" -- similar to the havens established in parts of Bosnia in the early 1990s -- in the Zawiya Mountains, Idlib and Homs, Syria's most militant city, where more than 1,000 people are said to have been killed since the uprising began in March.
Western states responded with outrage to the deaths.
"It is urgent that the UN Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression," said a French foreign ministry spokesman. (© Daily Telegraph, London)