Rebel ambush suspected as 25 Syrian men shot dead


BEIRUT – More than 25 Syrian men were found shot to death yesterday near the northern city of Aleppo in circumstances that remained unclear but appeared to be a rebel ambush, according to accounts from both Syrian state media and opposition activists.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported armed terrorist gangs, the standard government description for all opposition forces, carried out what it called a brutal massacre of the men, described as kidnap victims, in Daret Azzeh, in western Aleppo province.

Most had been shot dead and their bodies mutilated, the official account said, with some of the kidnap victims still missing.

The opposition described the event as the consequence of a military skirmish, with members of the Free Syrian Army carrying out a surprise attack on a group of men that included suspected shabiha, the feared shadowy pro-government militia members who often deploy with armed forces.

“The armed opposition in the area ambushed a number of cars,” said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkey lost a warplane over the Mediterranean yesterday, but its prime minister said he could not confirm reports Syria had shot it down and had apologised.

If the Syrians did bring down the Turkish F4 jet, a new crisis could erupt between two Middle Eastern neighbours already at odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said he could not say whether the plane had crashed or been shot down. – (New York Times, Reuters)