AMMAN Syrian government forces killed more than 200 people, most of them civilians, in a village in the province of Hama on Thursday, opposition activists said.
The village of Taramseh was shelled by Syrian troops and later stormed by pro-government Shabbiha militia, they said. Several people in the village were killed by the shelling and more were shot later in the head, execution-style, they added.
Syrian television said three security personnel had been killed in fighting in Taramseh, and accused "armed terrorist groups" of committing a massacre there.
A statement by the Hama Revolutionary Council said: "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, said he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents.
"It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling.
"Every family in the town seems to have members killed. We have names of men, women and children from countless families," he said, adding that many of the bodies were taken to a local mosque.
Ahmed, an activist from the Union of Hama Revolutionaries said: "We have reports of more than 220 killed. So far, we have 20 victims recorded with names and 60 bodies at a mosque. There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses ... people were trying to flee from the time the shelling started and whole families were killed trying to escape."
The reports could not be independently confirmed. Syrian authorities severely restrict the activities of independent journalists.
If the accounts are accurate, the incident would be the worst of its kind in the rebellion against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad that began 16 months ago.
(Editing by Andrew Roche)