Syria: 45 Bodies Found Near Damascus

Posted September 7th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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Activists said Friday that Syrian residents have recovered 45 unidentified bodies in two areas near the capital, Damascus, the latest such finds of suspected mass executions in the 18-month-long conflict.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 23 bodies were discovered Thursday in the eastern suburb of Zamalka, while another 22 were found in Qatana, southeast of the capital.

The watchdog group also reported fresh clashes Friday between government troops and rebels in the Kazaz neighborhood of Damascus. The tightly controlled area is home to offices of several Syrian security agencies.

On Thursday, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recaptured a town on the border with Jordan used as a transit point by refugees escaping the conflict. Hundreds of soldiers backed by tanks assaulted Tel Chehab early Thursday, arresting dozens of people and setting fire to rebel safehouses.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that Moscow is not ready to shift its stance on supporting Syria, and suggested that Western nations are relying on militant groups like al-Qaida to help topple Mr. Assad.

Speaking on Russia Today television, Mr. Putin called this a “dangerous and very shortsighted” policy, but he did not name specific countries.

The Russian leader questioned why Moscow should be the one to re-think its policy toward Syria. He said, “perhaps our negotiating partners should reevaluate their position.”

Also Thursday, Iraq denied U.S. allegations that it is allowing Iran to fly through its airspace to deliver weapons to Syria.

An Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad will not allow any government to use its airspace to arm any of the parties in Syria. Three U.S. senators – Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, and John McCain – told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad that such action would damage ties with Washington.