Women, Children Found Dead in Syrian Flashpoint City

Posted March 12th, 2012 at 8:55 am (UTC-5)
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The Syrian government and activists say dozens of civilians have been killed in Homs in recent days, although both sides dispute responsibility for the deaths.

Activists say the bodies of at least 45 women and children have been discovered in the central city that has been a flashpoint for an anti-government uprising and retaliatory attacks and shelling by Syrian forces.

Activists say some of the bodies were badly mutilated and that some of the women were raped. They blame pro-government forces for the massacre.

Syrian officials confirm the deaths, but the state news agency SANA blamed “terrorist armed groups” for kidnapping, killing and mutilating civilians in order to show their bodies to media outlets.

There is no independent confirmation of the killings.

Reports of the alleged atrocities come as U.N. Security Council foreign ministers prepare to meet in New York Monday, a day after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan left Syria without a peace deal.

Britain called the meeting to talk about the Middle East a year after the Arab Spring uprisings. But diplomats expect the violence in Syria to dominate the talks. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among the top officials at the event.

The former U.N. secretary-general said ending the violence will be tough, but added his two days of talks with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad left him “optimistic.” Annan said he urged the Syrian government to immediately stop the killing and “embrace change and reform.”

Russia and China have vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on its opponents. They say the resolutions call for interfering in Syria's internal affairs. The vetoes frustrate Washington, which wants aid workers to be able to enter Syria and help civilians.

U.N. officials estimate that 7,500 people have died in the year-long violence.