Syria massacre: Fewer than 20 Houla victims died from shelling says UN
FEWER than 20 of the 108 people confirmed as having been killed in a massacre in the Syrian town of Houla died from artillery and tank fire, with most of the rest shot in their homes, the U.N. human rights office said today.
Survivors have told U.N. investigators that most of the other victims died in two bouts of summary executions carried out by pro-government "shabbiha" militiamen in the nearby village of Taldaou, U.N. rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.
"I believe at this point, and I would stress we are at very preliminary stages, that under 20 of the 108 can be attributed to artillery and tank fire," he told a news briefing in Geneva.
Some 49 children and 34 women were among the known victims, but the toll was not definitive, he said, adding: "There are reports of more deaths."
"Almost half of the ones we know of so far are children - that is totally unpardonable - and a very large number of women as well," Colville said.
"At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met peace envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday, the state news agency SANA said, amid an growing international outcry over the massacre, which the government on Monday blamed on Islamist militants.
"We once again call on government to grant immediate and unfettered access to the country," Colville said. "It is extremely important that we get to bottom of what happened."
In a statement issued on Sunday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for a full investigation. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey)