Syrian forces execute 18 farmers in Hama: activists

BEIRUT Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:31am EST

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian security forces shot dead at least 18 people in a village of central Syria on Friday, activists said, including at least five children.

A video uploaded by activists showed people wrapping the bloodied bodies of children and at least four adults in blankets. Seven of the victims were from the same family: a father, mother and their five children, including a 10-month-old, activists said.

They said the victims were from farming families in the village of Halfiya in Hama province. Security forces lined them up and shot them, activists said.

Several of the bodies shown in the video had been shot through the head. The motive for the killings was not immediately clear.

Hama has been under heavy bombardment for the last three weeks and total communications blackout since security forces began an intensified crackdown on the 11-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The city of Hama and rural areas around it have seen sporadic heavy shelling and at least one other mass killing.

Activists on Thursday said 13 people were shot dead, execution-style. They were relatives of the extended al-Asaad family, sharing the name of the head of rebels fighting government forces - Riad al-Asaad, the activists said.

(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Louise Ireland)