Government forces continue to round up Syrians, opposition groups say

BEIRUT — Syrian opposition groups charged Friday that government forces were continuing to round up people in a village near Syria’s Mediterranean coast where an alleged massacre left scores dead.

A major opposition umbrella group, known as the Syrian National Coalition, charged that troops and pro-government militiamen executed at least 150 people, including women and children, Thursday in the village of Bayda, in the coastal region of Tartus. The coalition labeled the killings “genocide” and said corpses had been burned. Other opposition accounts spoke of heavy bombardment and mass arrests.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group, said government sweeps continued in the area Friday and that loyalist forces were taking away many residents.

Opposition activists called for the Red Cross and other international organizations to head to the area in a bid to stop the violence. United Nations observers who once responded to reports of mass killings in Syria withdrew from the country last summer, leaving a monitoring void in the violence-wracked nation.

Syrian government officials said there was a major military sweep in the coastal zone targeting “lairs of the terrorists.”

The official Syria Arab News Agency said an unspecified number of “terrorists” – the government’s standard term for armed rebels – had been killed during operations in Bayda and parts of the neighboring city of Banias. Troops captured “depots of weaponry and ammunition,” including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and pump-action shotguns and explosive materials, the official news agency said.

There was no independent confirmation of the alleged violence. The government restricts media access inside Syria.

The allegations in Tartus province carried strong sectarian overtones. The region’s population is largely Alawite, the minority sect of President Bashar Assad and many of his major security chiefs. The Tartus region is considered a stronghold of support for the Assad government.

But the alleged massacre is said to have occurred in districts where most residents are Sunni Muslims, the majority in Syria and the spearhead of the revolt against Assad’s rule.

The mostly Sunni residents of Bayda were early backers of the uprising, opposition activists said. Anti-government protesters took to village streets two years ago, clashing with security forces, according to opposition advocates.

It was not clear whether Thursday’s military sweeps were part of a broader offensive in the region. There has been speculation that Assad and his security chiefs could retreat to the coastal zone should Damascus, the capital, fall. But the government still maintains firm control of Damascus and of the strategic highway that leads north from there to the embattled city of Homs and then west to the Mediterranean.

In recent weeks, government forces have pushed back insurgents in both the Damascus and Homs areas, dealing a setback to the rebels. Opposition forces have called on outside allies, including the United States, to step up aid to anti-Assad forces.

More than 70,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, according to the U.N. Diplomatic efforts to create a cease-fire have failed to halt the carnage.

—-

(Times staff writer McDonnell reported from Beirut and special correspondent Bulos from Amman, Jordan.)

—-

&Copy;2013 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

—————

Topics: t000194352,t000189451,t000003763

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has asked for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-run cases in the state.

Everett man killed at bar had criminal history, gang ties

A bar employee reportedly shot Matalepuna Malu, 29, whose street name was “June Bug.”

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Most Read