The Times West Virginian

Headline News

January 18, 2013

Syrian pro-regime gunmen kill more than 100

BEIRUT — Gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad swept through a mainly Sunni farming village in central Syria this week, torching houses and killing more than 100 people, including women and children, opposition activists said Thursday.

The reported slayings fueled accusations that pro-government militiamen are trying to drive majority Sunnis out of areas near main routes to the coast to ensure control of an Alawite enclave as the country’s civil war increasingly takes on sectarian overtones.

Activists said the attackers were from nearby areas dominated by Shiite Muslims and allied Alawites. Assad and most of the top officials in his regime belong to the minority Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot.

The events in Haswiyeh, an impoverished farming area on the edge of Homs, unfolded on Tuesday and Wednesday, but only came to light Thursday as the reported scale of the killings became apparent.

An amateur video posted online showed veiled women sitting on the floor surrounded by children as they described a horrific scene of gunmen killing people and burning bodies.

“They slaughtered members of the same families then turned the diesel heaters on them,” one of the women said, adding that some homes were robbed of money and jewelry as well. “We did not fight and we had no gunmen. We are all workers trying to make a living.”

Another video showed a charred room with what appeared to be two blackened bodies on the floor. A man could be heard weeping in the background. The caption said the video is from Haswiyeh.

The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting on the events depicted, although exact details of what happened were unclear and could not be independently verified because of restrictions on independent media.

A government official in Damascus denied the reports, saying no such killings took place in the area and accusing rebels of using civilians as “human shields.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

However, the pro-government daily newspaper Al-Watan reported Thursday that Syrian troops advanced in the countryside of Homs “cleansing the villages of Haswiyeh and Dweir as well as their fields” from gunmen. It did not elaborate.

The attacks come amid a spike in violence in Syria and a particularly bloody week.

Activists on Thursday night said a foreign journalist died while covering clashes between rebels and regime forces in the northern city of Aleppo. The Aleppo Media Center, a network of anti-regime activists in the city, said the journalist was shot by a regime sniper positioned on the roof of the Aleppo central prison near the Museilmeh district.

The claim could not be independently verified.

Twenty-eight journalists were killed in Syria in 2012, prompting the Committee to Protect Journalists to name Syria the most dangerous country in the world to work in last year.

The Haswiyeh assault, as described by several activists to The Associated Press, bore a resemblance to the attack last May on the nearby area of Houla that killed 108 people and drew international condemnation of the Assad regime.

The opposition believes the mass killings that have occurred mostly in overwhelmingly Sunni villages that lie near main routes into the Alawite sect’s coastal strip are meant to lay the groundwork for a breakaway enclave.  

“Time and again, the regime has used the Alawite community in Homs to implement its sectarian projects,” local opposition activist Mohammad Raad said.

Sunnis compromise the majority of Syria’s 23 million people but have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Alawite Assad dynasty.

The uprising against Assad erupted in March 2011 as the so-called wave of Arab Spring revolutions was sweeping the Middle East. It quickly evolved into a civil war as the opposition took up arms against a regime crackdown. The U.N. says at least 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Haswiyeh is controlled by government forces, but activists said many of its residents have sons in the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group fighting to topple Assad’s forces.

“This is a purely sectarian attack meant to punish the rebels by targeting their families,” said Abu Yazan, an opposition activist speaking via Skype from Houla. Rebels and government troops are known to have clashed in the area around Haswiyeh earlier this week.

There were conflicting reports on the death toll, as is often the case in Syria where information is limited, although all the activists agreed the victims appeared to all be Sunnis.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 106 people were killed in the two-day rampage, with some “burnt inside their homes and others killed with knives” and other weapons. It also cited reports that “whole families were executed, one of them made up of 32 members.”

Homs-based activist Youssef al-Homsi said at least 100 people were killed in Haswiyeh. He sent via Skype a list of 100 names of those killed, including entire families and the individual names of 15 women and 10 children. Al-Homsi also said locals reported that many of the attackers came from the nearby village of Mazraa, which he said is predominantly Shiite.

A third opposition activist in Homs said he had collected the names of 50 people killed, but added others were still missing. It was not possible to confirm the activist reports or reconcile their figures.

Elsewhere in Syria Thursday, activists reported air raids in the suburbs of the capital and clashes in the town of Beit Saham near the international airport outside Damascus. They also said an air raid killed at least 15 people in the town of Kfar Nabouedeh in the central province of Hama.

State-run news agency SANA, meanwhile, said gunmen killed Walid al-Abboud, the brother of lawmaker Khaled al-Abboud. The 49-year-old engineer was gunned down in front of his house in the Damascus suburb of Qatana as he was leaving for work, it said.

Syrian TV also said troops repelled an attack on the main airport in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour near the border with Iraq.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles

     A tree planted in Los Angeles to honor former Beatle George Harrison has been killed — by beetles.

    July 23, 2014

  • ‘X-Men’ VR experience coming to Comic-Con

    Comic-Con attendees will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enter the mind of Professor X.
    20th Century Fox has created an “X-Men”-themed virtual reality stunt especially for the pop-culture convention, which kicks off Thursday in San Diego. The interactive digital experience utilizes the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, which is not yet available to consumers, to simulate the fictional Cerebro technology used to track down mutants by the character portrayed by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy in the “X-Men” films.

    July 23, 2014

  • Centenarian Weather W_time2.jpg At 101, weather observer gets a place in the sun

    It takes only a couple of minutes, twice a day, but 101-year-old Richard Hendrickson is fiercely proud that he has done the same thing for his country and community nearly every day since Herbert Hoover was in the White House in 1930.
    The retired chicken and dairy farmer, whose home sits in the heart of the ritzy Hamptons, has been recording daily readings of temperature and precipitation on eastern Long Island longer than any volunteer observer in the history of the National Weather Service.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit.jpg 'Maverick' star James Garner, 86, dies in California

     Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick" led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance," has died, police said. He was 86.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Given life term, drug offender hopes for clemency

    From the very start, Scott Walker refused to believe he would die in prison.
    Arrested and jailed at 25, then sent to prison more than two years later, Walker couldn’t imagine spending his life behind bars for dealing drugs. He told himself this wasn’t the end, that someday he’d be released. But the years passed, his appeals failed and nothing changed.

    July 20, 2014

  • Teen’s death puts focus on caffeine powder dangers

    A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
    But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads