BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he had received ‘grisly reports’ that Syrian government forces were arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in the battle-scarred city of Homs after rebel fighters had fled.
Ban’s comments came as a wounded British photographer, who escaped Homs earlier this week, said on Friday he had witnessed Syrian troops carrying out a massacre in the city’s Baba Amro district, which had become a symbol of a year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Opposition activists told Reuters Syrian troops, who had bombarded the district for weeks, had started hunting down and killing insurgents who had stayed to cover a rebel retreat on Thursday.
The rebel withdrawal was seen as a major setback for the armed revolt, that began with largely peaceful protests inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’, but escalated after a bloody government crackdown.
‘A major assault on Homs took place on Friday,’ Ban told the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday. ‘Civilian losses have clearly been heavy. We continue to received grisly reports of summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture.’
In some of his toughest criticism of Damascus to date, Ban added that ‘this atrocious assault is all the more appalling for having been waged by the government itself, systematically attacking its own people.’
Syria’s UN Ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, said Ban’s remarks included ‘extremely virulent rhetoric which confines itself to slandering a government based on reports, opinions or hearsay.’
‘The secretary-general is not duly informed,’ he said, reiterating that the Syrian opposition consisted of ‘armed terrorist groups’.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said an aid convoy had reached Baba Amro, but was not allowed to enter. ‘It is unacceptable that people who have been in need of emergency assistance for weeks have still not received any help,’ ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement.
‘We are staying in Homs tonight in the hope of entering Baba Amro in the very near future.’
One activist in Homs told Reuters: ‘The Syrian army was holding the convoy up because they want to clean up after what they have done in Baba Amro.’ As with other activist reports from Homs, this could not be independently confirmed.
‘All men who remained in the neighbourhood aged between 14 and 50 were arrested. We fear they will be massacred. Where is the world?’ said one activist.
‘The massacres are continuing. They are torturing them and killing (detainees) one by one. They are executing them in batches,’ another activist, who left Baba Amro on Friday, told Reuters via Skype.
Many fighters out of the 2,000 who were based in Baba Amro were killed and wounded in the onslaught, they said, adding that a final toll was impossible to give because of the heavy shelling and siege. Hundreds were reported to have fled.(UNI)