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Opposition group says rebels executed Syrian troops

September 10, 2012 | 12:34 pm

ANTAKYA, Turkey -- Rebels have executed more than 20 government soldiers in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, a pro-opposition group said Monday.

Video posted on the Internet purported to show the victims, many wearing military fatigue jackets, slumped against a blood-stained curb and lying on a street. Many appear to have been blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs.

In the video, rifle-bearing men who appeared to be opposition fighters stood on the adjacent sidewalk. Someone repeated “God is Great” in Arabic as a camera panned over the bodies.

In a statement on its Facebook page along with the video, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that “rebel fighters” had “summarily executed” the soldiers. Area activists reported that the “mass murder” took place on Sept. 7 or 8, the observatory said.

The British-based observatory says it favors the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad but tries to report accurately on what is happening on the ground in Syria. The group is often quoted in international media reports on casualties. The Syrian government has made it difficult for journalists and human rights monitors to enter Syria and verify reports of casualties.

Both sides in the almost-18-month Syrian conflict have been accused of extra-juridical executions of prisoners.

On Sept. 5, opposition forces scheduled the public execution of an alleged pro-government militiaman in Aleppo’s Sukkari Square. Thousands of onlookers and many rebel fighters gathered to witness the event. But the plans changed when mortar rounds began to hit near the square. The crowd scattered and the execution was postponed.

Reports of the execution of the 20 soldiers came a day after a pair of car bombs exploded almost simultaneously in Aleppo, killing 33 and wounding 70, according to state-run media.

One car bomb, containing more than 2,000 pounds of explosives, detonated outside a hospital in the Malaab al-Baladi district, state media said, killing 30 and wounding 64. The other device, packed with about 1,000 pounds of explosives, detonated near a school in the al-Shuhadaa district, killing three people and wounding six, state media said.

Syrian officials blamed the blast on “terrorists,” their usual term for rebel forces.

Rebels and government forces have been battling for more than six weeks for control of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub. The city is now divided into rebel-occupied and government-controlled zones. Opposition-held areas suffer frequent government bombardment from artillery and aircraft. Rebels have fought back mostly with rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs.

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell

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