The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

August 27, 2012

Syrian rebels accuse army of atrocities in Damascus suburb where 371 died

ANTAKYA, Turkey — A weeklong government siege of a rebel-occupied Damascus suburb has killed at least 371 people, including 122 whose bodies were reportedly found in a mosque, anti-government activists said Sunday.

The violence with which the Syrian army stormed Darayya, southeast of the capital, shows what appears to be renewed determination by the government of President Bashar Assad to reassert authority in suburbs that were seized by rebels last month after a July 18 bombing that killed four top Assad advisers.

It was impossible to know how many of the dead were combatants and how many were civilians. A list of the dead published on the website of the Darayya Local Coordinating Committee, an anti-Assad group, showed 40 female names, plus nine others whose sex could not be determined. Two were identified as girls. The rest appeared to be male, though the ages of most were not given.

Fighting in Darayya had been fierce for several days. The area had been controlled by a group known as the Sahaba Battalions, part of a larger federation of rebel groups known as Ansar al Islam. Government forces began shelling the town about two weeks ago, then intensified the assault last Monday as they prepared to push into the area. Residents of Darayya reported that electricity, phone and Internet service had been cut a week ago.

The violence escalated throughout the week, with video posted on the Facebook page of one of the rebel units showing gunmen in black track suits — whoever shot the video was careful not to show faces — firing automatic rifles at unseen targets. Rebel statements indicated that at least 100 people had died as shelling and battles with loyalist units escalated.

But the real carnage apparently came on Saturday, after the rebels reportedly abandoned their positions Friday night and withdrew from the town.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which documents civilian and rebel casualties, said 219 people were killed on Saturday, including 122 whose bodies were found in a mosque where, activists said, they had taken shelter.

“Snipers then stationed themselves on the rooftops overlooking main streets in the city and began to snipe anyone they see, indiscriminate be it children, elderly, or women,” read a report on one online activist bulletin board.

The government news agency, SANA, provided scant details of the fighting, saying on Sunday only” “The armed forces continued their work to clear the area of Darayya in Damascus countryside from terrorist groups, pursuing terrorists and raiding their hideouts”

The SANA account said “a large number of terrorists” had been killed and “large amounts of weapons” captured. It said the captured weapons included rocket-propelled grenade launchers and U.S-made sniper rifles. It gave no indication of government casualties; SANA stopped enumerating government deaths in June.

A more graphic account appeared on Al Dounia, a pro-government Syrian TV station. Opening with a grisly shot of a dead man sitting in the driver’s seat of a devastated van whose door was streaked with rivulets of blood, the report, narrated by a female reporter wearing a bulletproof vest, included a tour of the devastation, with army troops pointing out bodies in apartment hallways, along walkways and littering cemeteries. It appeared to have been closely scripted; one injured woman was interviewed as she lay atop what appeared to be a grave before Syrian army troops nudged the reporter and cameraman aside and carried the woman off.

The report showed little fighting and no dead government troops. Still, it was one of the frankest admissions yet by the government that a war is being fought in and around Damascus — though it did not acknowledge that the opposition force is largely Syrian, referring to the rebels instead as “mercenaries and terrorists.” The report included an army officer ticking off what he said were the nationalities of some of the dead, including Afghan and Pakistani.

Opposition activists identified the leader of the Syrian army units in Darayya as Col. Sulaiman Mohammed, from the Army’s Fourth Division, which is commanded by Maher Assad, the president’s younger brother.

The activists also said that much of the killing Saturday had been the work of a shadowy militia known as the shabiha, and identified them as coming from the nearby Mezzeh 86 neighborhood, a predominantly Alawite area, the same religious sect as the country’s ruling elite. The rebels are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims.

The allegation of responsibility for atrocities after Syrian military action fits a pattern that has surfaced elsewhere in Syria. In May and June, similar mass killings occurred in Houla, a largely rebel-held city about two hours north of Damascus, and in Qubeir, a small village near the central Syrian city of Hama.

The worst bloodshed in Darayya appeared to have taken place at the Abu Suleiman al Darani Mosque, where activists said they had documented 122 executions on Saturday. Video posted on YouTube showed a number of corpses inside the mosque, and activists said 19 women and three children were among those killed. Most of the people found dead in the mosque had fled there for safety, activists said.

Activists said that besides the mosque, two other mass executions in other parts of the area had killed at least 27 people.

The siege of Darayya in the south followed another government push north of the capital last week in which army units seized control of the town of al Tal, where rebels had held sway since July and had long co-existed with government police even before the July 18 bombing that killed the minister of defense and others.

Fighting was also reported in Nahr Aisha, adjacent to Darayya. In past weeks, Nahr Aisha has been the scene of shelling and repeated clashes between rebels and the government’s forces, as well as executions of fighters or suspected fighters.

Text Only
Nation & World
  • Lankford, James 2011.jpg Lankford, rest of Oklahoma delegation vote to sue president

    A Democratic leader said the House does not have standing to sue the president after members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation voted to do just that.
    At 6:28 p.m. Wednesday, members of the House approved by a 225-201 partisan margin H. Res. 676, which gives House leadership the authority to file a lawsuit challenging actions by President Barack Obam

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • weather 1.jpg July could be coolest in weather record books

    With chances for soaking rains and unseasonably cool temperatures becoming frequent, a weather expert is increasingly convinced Oklahoma will end up with a historic July.
    At mid-afternoon Tuesday, the National Weather Service forecast for Edmond called for the high Wednesday to be near 73 with a 90 percent chance of heavy rain, followed by the high Thursday near 78 with a 30 percent chance of showers.
    Highs are expected to remain in the 80s into Monday.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 80.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • sales tax holiday.jpg Oklahoma sales tax takes a holiday

    Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1 and ending at midnight Aug. 3, Oklahomans will be able to participate in a sales tax holiday giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of sales tax.
    Yes, retailers may not charge tax, including state and local sales taxes on items that are tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday weekend. The sales of clothing and shoes priced at less than $100 are exempted from sales taxes.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings

    On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
    Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

    Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
    A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.

    July 22, 2014

  • June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs

    Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
    Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

    July 22, 2014

  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • UCO campus 3.jpg University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment

    The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.          
    Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo