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Syria: 'Children Burned Alive In Front Of Their Mothers' Report Activists In Homs

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Syrians in the devastated city of Homs have described the harrowing moment that government forces rounded up whole families, divided the children from their mothers and then burned them alive.

The families were reportedly arrested in the Karm el-Zeytoun and Adawiya neighbourhoods of the city.

One Homs resident known as 'Yazn' told the protest network Avaaz how the families were brutally executed in turn:

"They handed them over to the security forces and Shabiha militia who separated the men from the women and children.

"They shot the men and burned the others alive. They slaughtered the children in front of their mothers and then raped the women, some of whom were minors."

The bodies of at least 26 children and 21 women were discovered in the ruins of the city, said to be victims of a massacre by government security forces.

Members of the opposition were able to take the remains of 47 victims to the Bab al-Sabaa neighbourhood. The Activists News Association published extremely graphic videos on Facebook which appeared to show the corpses in a field hospital.

Another activist, Abu Yasser, said: "A number of those killed had their bodies desecrated with sectarian phrases. The regime is desperate to ignite sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Alawites in the city."

Avaaz said: "Meantime citizen journalists report that the army continues to shell the old districts of Homs with mortar and heavy machine-gun fire. Snipers are also everywhere and the streets are mainly empty."

The BBC described how many other families have been left to wander the streets of Homs homeless after their lives were wrecked in more than four weeks of continuous bombardment.

The city has been subject to an assault by the Syrian army for weeks, and attacks have continued even after opposition forces withdrew under pressure from intense shelling.

Avaaz also said that increased mortar attacks in the city of Idlib were driving civilians into the town of Hama, the site of a crack down on the regime's opposition in 1982 in which 10,000 people were killed by President Assad's predecessor, his father Hafez Assad.

Elsewhere British Foreign Secretary William Hague pushed the UN security council to adopt a resolution condemning the violence after a weekend of diplomatic efforts by UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan did not lead to a hoped-for breakthrough.

Annan said that he was "optimistic" following the talks, and that if enacted his "concrete proposals" could lead to a ceasefire.

He added that every Syrian "wants peace".

Critics said that President Assad had rejected all talks with "armed terrorist groups", meaning the increasingly militarised opposition movement, and had given no ground over his own personal hold on power.

Assad said during the talks: "No political dialogue or political activity can succeed while there are armed terrorist groups operating and spreading chaos and instability."

Dr Bassma Kodmani, with the opposition Syrian National Council, told the BBC Assad had to stand down.

He said that Assad leaving office was a "first condition" of any negotiation.

Large-scale demonstrations against Assad's rule, including some in central Damscus were reported on Sunday evening, after a weekend of violence.

The UN says that at least 7,500 people have been killed since the start of the uprising 12 months ago.

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Syria: 12 February 2012
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