UN observers in Syria find 13 bound corpses

BEIRUT (AP) — U.N. observers have discovered 13 bound corpses in eastern Syria, many of them apparently shot execution-style, the monitoring mission said Wednesday.

The announcement comes days after a massacre in Houla, in the central Homs province, which killed more than 100 people and prompted worldwide condemnation against the regime of President Bashar Assad. The Syrian government denied its troops were behind the killings and blamed “armed terrorists.”

The latest killings apparently happened in Deir el-Zour province. The corpses were found with their hands tied behind their backs, according to a statement by the U.N. mission. Some appeared to have been shot in the head from a short distance.

The head of the U.N. observer team, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, said he was “deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act.”

The violence in Syria is spiraling out of control as an uprising against Assad that began in March 2011 has morphed into an armed insurgency.

In the wake of the Houla massacre, the United States and several other countries expelled Syrian diplomats to protest the killings. Survivors blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of the carnage in Houla.

Violence also continued elsewhere unabated. Syrian forces bombarded rebel-held areas in the same province where the Houla killings occurred, although no casualties were immediately reported, activists said.

Damascus had said it would conclude its own investigation into the Houla deaths by Wednesday but it was not clear if the findings would be made public.

Syria’s state-run media on Wednesday denounced the diplomatic expulsions as “unprecedented hysteria.”

The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria ordered top Syrian diplomats to leave on Tuesday.

Turkey, Syria’s neighbor and a former close ally, joined the coordinated protest on Wednesday. Turkey has been among the most outspoken critics of the Assad regime. It closed its embassy in Damascus in March and withdrew the ambassador. Its consulate in Aleppo remains open.

Japan also ordered the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo to leave the country because of concerns about violence against civilians. Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Genba, said his country was not, however, breaking off diplomatic ties with Syria.

Syria’s ally, Russia, criticized the diplomatic moves.

UN rights body to hold

session on Syrian massacre

The U.N.’s top human rights body will hold a special session Friday on the deteriorating situation in Syria and last week’s massacre.

The U.N. Human Rights Council said Wednesday its special session will address the massacre in Houla, Syria, which drew international condemnation and prompted the U.S. and at least a dozen other nations to expel Syrian diplomats.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said the session will be called based on a request supported by 21 of the 47 nations that are council members.

The request, he said, required support from at least a third of its members and was officially submitted by Qatar, Turkey, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Denmark and the European Union.

A total of 51 nations — including France, Germany, Britain, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and 25 others that have observer status on the council — signed their support for the session.

The Geneva-based council has met 18 times previously in special sessions since its creation in 2006, including three on Syria just last year in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions. At the last of those sessions in December — the previous ones came in April and August — the council approved a resolution to criticize Syria’s crackdown on opposition protesters and appointed a special investigator to probe abuses in the country.

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