BEIRUT (Reuters) - Thirteen bodies were found dumped on the street in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday with gunshots to the head and blood drenching the pavement, a video by activists showed.
“We’ve discovered a massacre today in Deir Baalba neighborhood. Look at this, Muslims. Look at this, Arabs,” a man shouted as he walked towards the corpses, thrown on their backs or face down in pools of blood.
The victims, all young or middle-aged men, had their hands tied behind their back. Some were blindfolded. Activists said they couldn’t tell who they were or why they were killed.
“Some of them had traces of torture so they may have been detainees. There were no identity papers on the bodies, so we are trying to find out who they are,” said Saleem Qabbani, from the grassroots Local Coordination Committees opposition group.
“But by looking at their clothes, we believe many of them were from the neighborhood. Deir Baalba is very poor, people usually only have one or two sets of clothes so some of the activists here recognized the men by what they were wearing,” he said. “But they are still trying to figure out their names.”
Central Homs has been the bloody epicenter of the year-long revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the security forces he unleashed in a crackdown estimated to have killed more than 9,000 people, according to the United Nations.
The city of one million has also been mired in sectarian violence in recent months, breeding a climate of fear and hatred between neighborhoods.
There have been previous cases of mass executions of Sunni Muslims, Syria’s majority population and the backbone of the revolt. Minority Alawites, a Shi’ite-rooted sect to which Assad and many in the ruling elite belong, have also been slain.
Qabbani blamed security forces for the Homs killings, saying the bodies had been found near a school that had been used by the army as an informal detention centre.
Another opposition activist, who declined to be named, said the victims could have been Alawites, as Deir Baalba is a mixed area, or possibly men deemed traitors by local rebels.
The government has made no comment about the video, posted on YouTube: here
“Where are the Muslim clerics while this is happening today in Homs?” wailed the man in the video. “Allahu Akbar (God is great). God is greater than you, oh Bashar. It is April 7, 2012 and we have found a massacre.”
Deir Baalba was torn by shock and grief on Saturday, three days before Assad has promised to start withdrawing his army from urban areas under a U.N.-backed ceasefire plan.
Another amateur video recorded by activists in the district showed scenes of carnage said to be the aftermath of a army shelling attack. Heaps of mangled limbs and body parts gathered in blankets were being loaded onto a pick-up truck.
Syrians opposed to Assad say the ceasefire set for next week is likely to be another mirage. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday warned that “the April 10 timeline ... is not an excuse for continued killing”.
Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Alistair Lyon