32 kids among 92 killed in Syria attack: UN
Beirut, May 27, 2012
The United Nations said that more than 92 people were killed in what activists described as an artillery barrage by Syria's government forces in the worst violence since the start of a UN peace plan.
The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.
The carnage underlined just how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar Al-Assad.
"This morning UN military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed," the head of UN team monitoring the ceasefire - which has yet to take hold - said.
"The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells," Major General Robert Mood said in a statement, without elaborating. "Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attack. "Those who perpetrated this atrocity must be identified and held to account," she said in a statement. "And the United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end."
In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded "the government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centres."
Activists said Assad's forces shelled the town of Houla on Friday evening after security forces killed a protester and following skirmishes between troops and fighters from the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency fighting Syria's rulers, who belong to the minority Alawite sect.
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Houla residents fled, fearing more shelling.
It said one person was killed in the northern town of Saraqeb when troops fired on a protest against the killing.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists after the killing in Houla, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by "terrorist" gangs. It also showed video of bodies with what looked like gunshot wounds to the head, sprawled on bloodstained mattresses.
Activists distributed footage appearing to show protests in Aleppo, the largest city in the north.
A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria's political opposition said Assad's forces had killed "entire families" in Houla in addition to the shelling. - Reuters