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Syria massacre reportedly leaves more than 200 dead

Government forces are said to be pounding a suburb of Damascus as part of an attempt to retake rebel-held areas.

August 25, 2012|By Los Angeles Times Staff
  • United Nations vehicles leave Damascus, Syria, at the end of a failed monitoring mission. A massacre was reported in a suburb of the capital.
United Nations vehicles leave Damascus, Syria, at the end of a failed monitoring… (European Pressphoto Agency )

BEIRUT — Syrian activists Saturday reported a massacre in a suburb of Damascus that may have claimed more than 200 lives in the last few days.

Some activists were estimating that the death toll could reach 300 as government forces continued an onslaught against Dariya, a suburb of the capital, using tanks, warplanes and snipers.

Residents found 122 bodies in the basement of a building still under construction, said Abu Kinan, an activist in Dariya. All appeared to have been executed, he said.

Independent confirmation of fatalities and specific events in Syria is difficult because of severe government restrictions on news coverage of the conflict.

Activists reported that about 70 people were killed elsewhere in Dariya on Saturday by government troops storming their homes or by snipers.

"There are many snipers. Every street has a sniper," Abu Kinan said. "They entered the town, and they control all of it now. If someone goes into the street, the snipers begin firing."

Ambulances trying to transport hundreds of wounded, as well as families attempting to flee, are navigating the streets at night without headlights to avoid becoming obvious targets, he said. But the ambulances don't have many options on where to take their patients.

"There are no more field hospitals; they were all shelled," Abu Kinan said. "The injured are considered dead."

The 122 bodies found in a basement were taken to a nearby mosque, activists said. An Internet video showed rows and rows of bloody corpses. Residents didn't dare to try to bury them outside, Abu Kinan said.

Activists said they expected more bodies to be found. Dozens of people died in previous days, they said, as the town was shelled for two days before government forces stormed the suburb Friday.

Videos posted on the Internet in the last few days show bloody, chaotic scenes of the wounded being carried from crumbling buildings and put into the back of trucks, vans or any passing vehicle.

Dariya has been the focus of President Bashar Assad's troops for several days, in part of what activists say is a bid to retake rebel-held neighborhoods in Damascus and surrounding suburbs. Dariya had a strong rebel presence before the Free Syrian Army withdrew two days ago.

State media reported that government forces in Dariya had "delivered a crippling blow to terrorists who were terrorizing locals and committing vandalism, eliminating many terrorists, destroying their cars, which were equipped with … machine guns."

Troops also arrested "a large number of terrorists, some of them non-Syrians."

The Syrian government has regularly referred to all opposition members in the 17-month conflict as terrorists.

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