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Boy saw family die in slaying

WHEN the gunmen began to slaughter his family, 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed says he fell to the floor of his home, soaking his clothes with his brother's blood to fool the killers into thinking he was dead.

THE Syrian boy tried to stop himself from trembling, even as the gunmen killed his parents and all four of his siblings, one by one.

The youngest to die was Ali's brother, 6-year-old Nader. His small body bore two bullet holes -- one in his head, another in his back.

"I put my brother's blood all over me and acted like I was dead," Ali said on Wednesday, his voice steady and matter-of-fact, five days after the killing spree that left him both an orphan and an only child.

Ali is one of the few survivors of a weekend massacre in Houla, a collection of poor farming villages and olive groves in Syria's central Homs province.

More than 100 people were killed, many of them women and children who were shot or stabbed in their houses.

The killings brought immediate, worldwide condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad, who has unleashed a violent crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011. Activists say as many as 13,000 people have been killed.

UN investigators and witnesses blame at least some of the Houla killings on gunmen known as shabiha who operate on behalf of Assad.

According to the UN, most of the victims were shot at close range. The attackers appeared to be targeting the most vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly, to terrorise the population.

The regime denies any responsibility for the Houla killings, blaming them on terrorists.