January 30, 2013 in Nation/World

Dozens of bodies found in Aleppo

Syria government, rebels place blame on each other
Bassem Mroue Associated Press

BEIRUT – The bodies of at least 65 people, some with hands tied behind their backs, were found in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday as the government and rebels trying to overthrow it blamed each other for the latest mass killing.

Also Tuesday, a bomb wounded former legislator and once-governor of the central province of Hama, Abdul-Razzak Qtini, as he was in his car, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a neighbor of Qtini said. The neighbor said Qtini is receiving treatment in a Damascus hospital.

The bodies, almost all of men in their 20s and 30s, were discovered in the contested neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, said the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman. Intense clashes between rebels and government troops have raged in the district since opposition forces launched an offensive on Aleppo in July.

Abdul-Rahman said the identities of the dead were unknown, and it was not clear who was behind the killings or when they occurred. A government official told the Associated Press in Damascus that the dead were residents of Bustan al-Qasr who were kidnapped and later killed.

Syrian state TV said the men were killed by members of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida-linked group that the Obama administration has labeled as a terrorist organization. It said the men were killed after they demanded members of the group leave their areas.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, put the number of bodies found at 80. It blamed government forces for the killing.

Such exchanges of accusations over killings have been common in Syria since the country’s conflict began in March 2011. With lawlessness and joblessness now rife in many areas, kidnappings for ransom are not uncommon.

The Observatory said a total of at least 160 people were killed Tuesday in Syria, while the LCC put the figure at 162. They numbers included the bodies of the men found in Aleppo.

The violence came a day ahead of a donors conference for the Syrian opposition headed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in the oil-rich Gulf state of Kuwait.

In Washington, President Barack Obama authorized an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian people Tuesday, as his administration grapples for a way to stem the violence without direct U.S. military involvement.

The fresh funding brings the total U.S. humanitarian aid to Syria over two years to $365 million, according to the White House. Officials said the money was being used to immunize 1 million Syrian children, purchase winter supplies for a half-million people, and to help alleviate food shortages.

The U.S. has long called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power and says the fall of his regime is inevitable.

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