Slayings of mum and four children signal brutal civil war
THE mutilated bodies of a mother and four of her five children have been found in the latest atrocity in Syria, an apparently sectarian killing confirming the collapse into a murderous civil war.
The al-Saleem family were Sunni, and rebels were quick to blame a local gang of Alawites, members of the minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs and which has often been fanatical in its support.
They said the body of the fifth child, a four-month-old baby boy, Yaqoub, was still missing, though in claims that could not be independently confirmed some activists said a decapitated body of the right age had been found in the local hospital morgue.
"We know the family were stopped at a checkpoint on Tuesday by a shabiha militia near al-Hurra village in the Hama countryside," said Mousab al-Hamadee, from the Hama Local Coordinating Committee. "They were kidnapped there. I know this gang -- they are very dangerous. Often they have kidnapped, killed or robbed people."
Abo Adnan Al-Hamwi, of the opposition Shaam News Network, said that, two days after they disappeared, the father was told to collect the corpses from a hospital.
The Assad regime has been forced to deny opposition claims of a string of killings of senior regime officials. But Israel claims to have evidence that one attempt came close to success.
Government officials, quoted anonymously by the Israeli daily 'Ha'aretz', said attempts to poison Asef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law and intelligence chief, and senior ministers was foiled only by prompt medical attention.
Syrian forces fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse thousands of protesters calling for President Assad's resignation yesterday, killing two people in the northern city of Aleppo.
Crackdowns on protests, as well as other government and rebel attacks, are routine despite the deployment of more than 250 UN observers who have fanned out around Syria to monitor a ceasefire brokered by international envoy by Kofi Annan.
Despite the daily violations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that there was still no "plan B" for the Annan initiative. (© Daily Telegraph, London)