Syria hit by 'new level of atrocity' as 300 bodies are found
The Syrian regime was accused of perpetrating an "atrocity on a new scale" yesterday after activists reported the discovery of more than 300 bodies in a town on the edge of Damascus.
Dozens of those killed were victims of summary executions carried out by government forces as they seized control of Daraya, on the capital's south-western outskirts, opposition groups said.
For five days last week, Daraya was subjected to one of the most ferocious assaults of the 17-month uprising as President Bashar al-Assad made his second attempt in the past two months to re-assert control over the town.
Local opposition activists reported the deaths of scores of people, but the intensity of the bombardment meant that it was only after the army ended its assault that they were able to count the full number of dead.
They said they had made several grim discoveries. In one building alone, they found 36 bodies.
The worst discovery was in the Abu Suleiman al-Durani mosque, where video footage showed scores of corpses shrouded in blankets and laid out in rows.
It was not the only mosque where bodies were found, and it was unclear whether the victims had been brought from other parts of the town or had been killed as they sought sanctuary.
Opposition activists said 120 bodies were found on Saturday and 201 yesterday. Other corpses remained on streets, too dangerous to reach because of snipers.
It is not known how many of those killed were civilians or rebel fighters, or how exactly they died. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most fatalities were caused by shelling, but 34 civilians, among them six women and six children, were executed.
"Initial evidence shows that they were mostly shot at close range in the face, neck and head, execution-style," said Mohammed Hur, a spokesman. "Female members from at least two families say that soldiers shot their brothers in front of them."
Alistair Burt, a junior minister in the British foreign office, said: "If confirmed, it would be an atrocity of a new scale."
Separately, Farouq al-Sharaa, the Syrian vice-president, appeared in public for the first time in a month, ending speculation he may have defected. (© Daily Telegraph, London)