Sunday, April 22, 2018

Syrian activists say 65 bodies found in Aleppo

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The bodies of at least 65 people, some with hands tied behind their backs, were found in Syria's northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday, and the government and the rebels blamed each other for the latest mass killing.

The bodies, most of them men in their 20s and 30s, were discovered in the contested neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, said the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman.

Video posted by opponents of President Bashar Assad seemed to show many had been shot in the back of the head. Clashes between rebels and government troops have raged in the area since opposition forces began an offensive in Aleppo in July.

Abdul-Rahman said the identities of the dead were unknown, and it was not clear who was behind the killings or when they occurred. A government official told the Associated Press in Damascus that the dead were residents of Bustan al-Qasr who were kidnapped and later killed.

Syrian state TV said the men were killed by members of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida-linked group that the Obama administration has labeled as a terrorist organization. State TV said the men were killed after they demanded that members of the group leave their areas.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, put the number of bodies found at 80. It blamed government forces for the killing.

Such exchanges of accusations over killings have been common in Syria since the country's conflict began in March 2011. With lawlessness and joblessness now rife in many areas, kidnappings for ransom are not uncommon.

An amateur video posted online showed dozens of bodies placed in rows on the ground and wrapped in blue blankets. A crowd of men, many covering their noses with scarves, walk among the dead, apparently trying to identify them.

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting on the events depicted.

The Observatory said at least 160 people were killed Tuesday in Syria, while the Local Coordination Committees put the figure at 162. The numbers included the bodies found in Aleppo.

The violence came a day ahead of a donors conference for the Syrian opposition headed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in Kuwait.

In Washington, President Barack Obama authorized an additional $155 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian people Tuesday, bringing the total over two years to $365 million, the White House said.

The European Union's humanitarian aid commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, said the EU committed another $134 million in help, bringing the EU total to about $485 million.

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