U.N. chief Ban shocked by Syria massacre, condemns crime
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was shocked by reports of a massacre in a town close to Syria's capital and condemned it as "an appalling and brutal crime" that should be independently investigated immediately, his spokesman said on Monday.
Syrian opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's army on Sunday of massacring hundreds of people in the town of Daraya, which government forces recaptured from rebels.
"The secretary-general is certainly shocked by those reports and he strongly condemns this appalling and brutal crime," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "This needs to be investigated immediately, in an independent and impartial fashion.
"It underscores ... wherever there are atrocities, whoever is responsible needs to be held accountable and it underscores again the lack of protection for civilians that there is in Syria," he said.
He said the U.N. Office for the Commissioner for Human Rights was trying to gather information on the Daraya incident.
In Daraya, southwest of Damascus, some 320 bodies, including women and children, were found in houses and basements, according to activists who said most had been killed "execution-style" by troops in house-to-house raids.
Syria's official state news agency blamed the killings on the rebels.
"Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town," the agency reported.
The United Nations estimates that more than 18,000 people have been killed in the 17-month conflict. It began as peaceful pro-democracy protests and has grown into a civil war, pitting a mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against the ruling Assad family, who are members of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)
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