Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad swept into a coastal village, killing dozens of people, Syrian opposition groups said.
“Reports now confirm a large-scale massacre in Baida,” the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement on its Facebook page. “Assad’s forces were directly involved” in the violence in the area.
The Coventry, U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it documented 50 deaths in the raid yesterday, including women and children. Dozens of villagers are missing and the toll may reach more than 100, it said, citing witnesses.
The Syrian army, backed by Shabiha militiamen, rampaged through Baida, rounding up and executing villagers before setting the bodies on fire, the opposition Local Coordination Committee said on its Facebook page. It also reported shelling, blocked roads and gunfire. Baida is situated on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
Government forces are engaged in offensives across the country, according to the Observatory, which has detailed fighting in the central city of Homs, Deir Ez-Zour in an oil-producing eastern region and Qusayr, near the border with Lebanon. The two-year long conflict has cost “well over” 70,000 lives, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in March.
It wasn’t possible to authenticate reports of the events in Baida. Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said troops killed “terrorists” as part of efforts to seize weapons.
Both sides in the civil war have made accusations of massacres. The bodies of at least 65 people, mostly men aged 20-30 year old, were found on the banks of Quweiq River in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the Observatory said in January. They had been shot at point-blank range.
Human rights groups including London-based Amnesty International have accused both sides in Syria of unlawfully killing prisoners.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi last week survived a bomb explosion that killed at least six people as his convoy traveled through Damascus, state television said.