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Syrian Activists Say About 200 Killed in Hama Massacre

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July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian security forces killed as many as 200 people in the town of Tremseh, in central Hama province, according to anti-government activists.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, an opposition group, said yesterday that there were more than 150 corpses in the town mosque, and that there is no full count yet since people are still searching for the dead. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, used a figure of at least 122.

The major political opposition group, the Syrian National Council, called for an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting on the alleged massacre, Al Arabiya said. The group also called for UN monitors to document the atrocities in the town.

There was no independent confirmation of the killings, and it was not initially clear whether members of the UN monitoring mission would be able to safely visit the town.

The reported killings come a week before the deadline for the UN Security Council to decide whether to extend the observer mission’s 90-day mandate in light of the continuing violence. The monitors’ operations have been largely suspended because of the violence and the danger posed to its members.

The Syrian Revolution Commission, on its website, said Tremseh was surrounded at dawn by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and shelled for two hours, during which time electricity and all sorts of communication were cut off.

Afterwards, government forces and members of the Shabiha militia entered the town with the help of helicopters, the group said. People were executed, including women and children, according to the report.

Bodies Burned

Some bodies were found in the river, and people are still searching for dead bodies, the commission said. Most victims were refugees from nearby towns, Al Jazeera reported citing activists. The activists said people were killed with knives and some bodies were burned, the news organization reported.

Official Syrian media provided a different account of the events. Syrian security forces clashed with “terrorist” groups -- the government’s term for anti-Assad fighters -- in Tremseh after a call for help was made by residents, the Syrian Arab News Agency said. The clashes led to “severe losses” among the terrorists and three government security personnel were killed, SANA said, citing sources it did not identify.

Word of a massacre of civilians spread in Syria. Colonel Riad al-Asaad, head of the opposition Free Syrian Army, called for a nationwide strike.

“I urge people to close down all roads and call upon all government employees to stay at their homes and not go to work in official directorates and to hold a general strike so we can paralyze the entire country, because this regime does not understand anything apart from the language of force,” he told Al Jazeera in a phone interview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nadeem Hamid in Washington at nhamid3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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