|"Syrian rebels gather in front of the remains of a burnt military vehicle belonging to Syrian government forces, Homs province." (Associated Press)|
By Ruth Sherlock and David Blair
The Telegraph, March 5, 2012
"Syrian forces are carrying out mass arrests and summary executions in Baba Amr, the former rebel stronghold in the city of Homs, according to a growing body of evidence. The accounts of atrocities coincide with the regime's continued refusal to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to enter Baba Amr, which was captured by the army last week. President Bashar al-Assad's regime has broken an earlier assurance that the ICRC would be allowed in, suggesting that his army is trying to cover up the aftermath of the fighting. A resident of Homs styling himself Abu Abdo told the Daily Telegraph how his 17-year-old cousin was caught up in a bloody reprisal attack in Baba Amr carried out by government troops and militiamen from Mr Assad's Alawite sect. 'They laid the men on the ground. Their hands were tied behind their backs, and their faces pressed to the floor,' said Abu Abdo. 'The soldiers began jumping and dancing across the bodies of the alive men, and hitting them on their backs with their rifle butts.' As they beat their victims, the militiamen, known as the 'Shabiha', were laughing and jeering. Abu Abdo's cousin remembered them saying: 'Do you think you will get your freedom now oh terrorist?' After tormenting their captives, the soldiers and militiamen began executing them. 'They used bayonets on the ends of their guns to stab the men in the back. One grabbed a prisoner by the hair and slit his throat,' said Abu Abdo. Four men were killed in this way.
But the frenzied brutality became too much for one of the militiamen. 'He grabbed the shoulder of the others, and told them to stop,' said Abu Abdo. The man is believed to have said: 'If we are going to kill them, then let's shoot them.' The men retreated and Abu Abdo's cousin was able to escape. A Syrian woman told the BBC that security forces slit the throat of her 12-year-old son last Friday after the rebels had retreated from Baba Amr. She claimed 35 other men and boys had been detained and killed in the same attack. These account cannot be independently verified. Since its capture last week after 26 days of continuous bombardment, Baba Amr has been sealed off. In this blackout, rumours have swirled of 'massacres' committed by the Syrian regime. The numbers have fluctuated wildly, with claims that dozens of civilians had been found hacked to death. But videos posted online and the accounts of civilians who have fled into neighbouring Lebanon leave little doubt of the violence they have left behind. One video, posted the day after Baba Amr was captured, shows a pile of male corpses in a truck. Their bodies are wrapped in blankets and carpeted by falling snow, their faces bearing what appear to be stab wounds. The top of one man's skull has been removed, a wound that seems too clean cut to have been inflicted by shrapnel. Many of the accounts focus on a government co-operative building in Baba Amr where hundreds of detainees are allegedly being held. Last week, reports suggested that ten prisoners were executed at this location. [...]"