BEIRUT –- More than 70 bodies were discovered Friday night in the
eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor in what opposition activists say
was a massacre committed by government forces three weeks ago.
The victims, among
them women, children and the elderly, were found dumped in a cemetery on the southern edge of a city that is
a regular target of shelling and mortar fire from government helicopters and
planes, said activist Muhammad Younis.
Many of the bodies had been burned and showed signs of
torture, he said. Some had their hands tied behind their backs. Photos from the
city show rows of charred and disfigured bodies.
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The discovery came as the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria,
Lakhdar Brahimi, arrived in the capital, Damascus, to meet with government
officials and opposition members in an attempt to broker a cease-fire for the
upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.
Brahimi has been meeting with leaders of neighboring
countries and Syria’s only regional ally, Iran, to garner support for a four-day cease-fire. But there are serious doubts that it will be successful as
past efforts have failed and violence across Syria continues.
In Deir Ezzor three weeks ago, security forces raided two
neighborhoods that were under government control and thought to be safe, going
home to home and executing people in the streets, Younis said. Phone and Internet lines were cut so little information was known at the time about what
As some residents fled to other parts of the city, they
brought with them news of seeing bodies in the streets. An activist group in
the city said the people were killed as they tried to flee the
On Thursday residents leaving the city through a
smuggling route that cuts through the cemetery said they smelled decomposing bodies. The
next day, activists returned and discovered dozens of bodies throughout
Because many of the bodies are decomposing or burned,
only about a dozen have been identified, Younis said.
“There were young children who were burned, the bodies
were disfigured,” said Younis, who blamed the killings on Bashar Assad, Syria's president. “He committed massacres so he would create chaos and
fear,” Younis said.
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-- Times staff
Photo: A scene from video provided in September by the Shaam News Network shows the search for survivors after Boukamal in eastern Syria was shelled by the Syrian army. Credit: EPA