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Syrian troops kill 200 in Hama

Syrian government troops using tanks and helicopters massacred more than 150 people in the central province of Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while a rebel leader put the toll at more than 200.

Government troops bombarded the village using tanks and helicopters, according to the Observatory, which earlier put the death toll at more than 100.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone that the bodies of 30 villagers had already been identified following the sustained attack, which brought the day’s total death toll in the conflict-torn nation to over 200.

Rebel leader Abu Mohamad, chief of a group based further to the north, told AFP early Friday that the attack using helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket-launchers had killed more than 200 people in the village.

Abu Mohamad said he had been in phone contact with a resident of Treimsa who told him that government forces were on hills a few kilometres outside the town.

The army and the Shabiha, pro-regime militia who are said to accompany troops to make sure they do not desert, started to bombard Treimsa ‘Thursday around 1330 IST and finished around 2330 IST,’ Abu Mohamad said.

But a Hama-based activist who identified himself as Abu Ghazi told AFP via Skype that regime troops started shelling the village earlier, at around 6 am local time.

‘That was followed by clashes with the [rebel] Free Syrian Army, but the FSA does not have a big presence in Treimsa and could not fight long,’ said the activist.

‘The number of martyrs is very high partly because the army shelled a mosque where scores of people had taken shelter, to treat the wounded and hide from the bombs,’ Abu Ghazi added.

‘But it is obvious that the regime knows no limits.’ 

The mosque was shelled, it collapsed, and that killed the people in it.’

The village, which had a population of 7,000, he said, ‘is empty now. Everyone is dead or has run away.’

The state-run SANA news agency said there had been clashes between the army and an armed ‘terrorist’ group in the village but made no mention of a massacre and gave no overall death toll.

‘There were heavy losses among the ranks of the terrorists,’ said the report, adding that three government soldiers were killed.


ANNAN TO MEET LAVROV

UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan will on Monday meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks on the crisis in Syria, Russian news agencies reported. 'The talks will focus on the current situation in Syria and the chances of an internal Syrian solution,' a Russian foreign ministry source, who was not named, told the ITAR-TASS news agency. The talks would most likely touch on a UN resolution that would extend the mandate of the UN mission in Syria, said the source. Talks between Russia and world powers at the United Nations have already been dogged by disputes, with Russia proposing its own resolution that the West said fell short of expectations.
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