June 7, 2012 in Nation/World

Activists accuse ‘thugs’ of massacring civilians

Allied effort to ease Assad out

The United States and its allies in Europe, Turkey and the Arab world have agreed to work on a political transition plan for Syria, hoping to persuade President Bashar Assad’s powerful ally Russia to join a broadened diplomatic effort to ease the embattled leader out of power. The push for a structured end to the four-decade Assad regime came late Wednesday at a closed-door meeting of foreign ministers in Istanbul, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Associated Press

BEIRUT – Anti-government activists accused forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad of a new massacre of civilians early today.

Dozens were killed by government shelling and attacks by pro-regime “thugs” in the province of Hama, according to reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-government group that traces daily casualties.

The group urged United Nations monitors to rush to the town of Mazraat al Qubbeir and the village of Maarzaf to investigate their allegations.

Reuters news service cited anti-government activists as saying Syrian security forces killed at least 78 people, including children. At least 12 bodies had been burned, Reuters reported.

An opposition activist told Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite network, that the killings took place in two stages – a shelling of the area and then the entry of armed militiamen who slaughtered victims with guns and knives.

It was not possible early today to verify the accounts. There was no immediate response from Syrian authorities.

The massacre, if verified, would come less than two weeks after the killings of more than 100 people, mostly women and children, in Houla township. Those killings caused international condemnation of the Syrian government. Syrian authorities blamed anti-government “armed groups” for the Houla atrocity.

The Syrian government has accused the opposition of inflating casualty counts and even committing massacres in a bid to discredit the security services and Assad.

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