'Dozens' of bodies found in Syria

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 00:00

At least 65 people, apparently shot in the head, were found dead with their hands bound in a district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo today, activists said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says it provides objective information about casualties on both sides of Syria's war from a network of monitors, said the death toll could rise as high as 80. It was not clear who had carried out the killings.

Opposition activists posted a video of a man filming at least 51 muddied male bodies alongside what they said was the Queiq River in the rebel-held Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo.

The bodies had gunshot wounds to their heads, and their hands were bound. Blood was seeping from their heads and some of them appeared to be young, possibly teenagers, and dressed in jeans, shirts and sneakers.

Aleppo-based opposition activists who asked not to be named for security reasons blamed pro-Assad militia fighters.

They said the men had been executed and dumped in the river before floating downstream into the rebel area. State media did not mention the incident.

The Queiq River rises in Turkey and travels through government-held districts of Aleppo before it reaches Bustan al-Qasr.

"They were killed only because they are Muslims," said a bearded man in another video said to have been filmed in central Bustan al-Qasr after the bodies were removed from the river. A pickup truck with a pile of corpses was parked behind him.

It is hard for Reuters to verify such reports from inside Syria because of restrictions on independent media.

Government forces and rebels in Syria have both been accused by human rights groups of carrying out summary executions in the 22-month-old conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Rebels pushed into Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, over the summer, but are stuck in a stalemate with government forces. The city is divided roughly in half between the two sides.

The revolt started as a peaceful protest movement against more than four decades of rule by president Bashar al-Assad and his family, but turned into an armed rebellion after a government crackdown.

US president Barack Obama said today he would boost humanitarian aid to Syria and urged other nations to do more to help the United Nations, which is struggling to assist some 4 million people in the war-torn country and more than 700,000 who have fled it.

Mr Obama said he authorized an additional $155 million in aid for food, medical care and clothing for Syrians and refugees, bringing the US total to $365 million.

The US president has been criticized for not doing more to aid rebels trying to overthrow Assad, even as the humanitarian cost of the conflict has skyrocketed and Western nations worry about the growing clout of Islamic militants among the rebels.

The United Nations has received promises of major donations at this week's $1.5 billion aid conference for Syria, according to one of its senior officials.

Tomorrow's pledging conference in Kuwait will seek $1 billion of aid for Syria's neighbours sheltering 700,000 registered refugees, and another $500 million to bankroll humanitarian work for 4 million Syrians inside their country.


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