More bodies found in Syrian suburb; opposition blames government
More than 100 new bodies were discovered Sunday in the suburb of the capital, Damascus, as government forces withdrew to the town’s outskirts and residents were able to begin searching more thoroughly, activists said. The opposition Damascus Media Office said it has recorded at least 255 victims so far.
As details and grisly images continued to emerge, so did competing narratives — from the opposition and President Bashar Assad's embattled government — of who was to blame for the carnage.
“We are finding bodies everywhere. What has happened in Dariya is the most appalling of what has happened in the revolution till now, what has happened in Syria till now,” said Abu Kinan, an activist in the town. “The smell of death is everywhere.”
Most of those killed were reportedly taken to the basements of empty buildings and shot execution-style at close range. Most of those killed were men, but many women and children were also among the dead. On Sunday, some neighborhoods raided the day before were raided again by another division of the army, killing more residents, Abu Kinan said.
State media blamed the killings on “terrorists,” the term it uses to refer to opposition forces. “As we have become accustomed every time we enter an area that has terrorists, they have committed crimes and killings in the name of freedom,” an Addounia reporter said in a televised report.
The deaths in this town just a few miles from Damascus began days ago when government forces began shelling it from tanks, helicopters and fighter jets. It was the latest in what the opposition describes as a methodical attempt by the Syrian government to both retake and punish rebel-held neighborhoods inside Damascus and surrounding suburbs.
After rebels with the Free Syrian Army, which have had a strong presence in Dariya, withdrew from the town Friday night, soldiers accompanied by pro-government militia members stormed in, activist groups said. They raided homes and arrested many, taking them to the basements of empty buildings where they were shot, the activists said.
In one grisly discovery Saturday, more than 120 bodies were found in one basement alone. About 70 others were killed elsewhere, many of them gunned down in the streets by snipers, activist groups said.
By Sunday, only some of those killed had been buried in a mass grave.
Before Dariya, dozens were killed in Moadamiyet Al-sham and on Sunday activists said government forces were moving toward the nearby town of Ajdaideh.
“I expect to hear a massacre from there tomorrow,” Abu Kinan said.
Independent confirmation of fatalities and specific events is difficult because of severe government restrictions on media coverage of the Syrian conflict. Confirming details of alleged massacres have become even more difficult with the departure of the United Nations monitoring mission, which had visited some of the towns where previous massacres took place.
Either from the state media or from the activists, the images out of Dariya show wanton killing throughout the streets. One report from the pro-government TV channel Addounia showed residents killed in the midst of daily activities; a girl on the street, a fallen man near his motorcycle and several bodies at a cemetery.
— Times staff
Photo: A citizen journalism image provided to the Associated Press by the opposition Shaam News Network is said to show people killed by pro-government militia in Dariya, Syria, on Sunday being prepared for burial in a mass grave. The AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity of the image.