Syria laying landmines in border areas: HRW



Syria laying landmines in border areas: HRW Beirut: An international human rights group says Syrian troops have planted landmines along routes used by people fleeing the country's violence and trying to reach neighboring Turkey.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says the mines were planted in the past weeks.

HRW says its report, released on Tuesday, is based on accounts from witnesses and also Syrian deminers. It cites witnesses as saying the landmines have already caused civilian casualties.

A Syrian official and witnesses said in November that Syria planted landmines along parts of its border with Lebanon. The official at the time said the mines aim to prevent arms smuggling.

Thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey and Lebanon since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began a year ago.

At the United Nations, the US and Russia clashed after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the divided Security Council to speak with one voice and help Syria "pull back from the brink of a deeper catastrophe."

Washington and Moscow both called for an end to the bloody conflict — but on different terms, leaving prospects for UN action in doubt.

The reports of killings in the battered city of Homs added to concerns that the hundreds of civilian deaths caused by the fighting would be compounded by reprisals against opposition supporters in recaptured towns and neighborhoods.

Fresh from stamping out rebel centers of resistance in Homs, government forces are pressing on with new offensives in other parts of central and northern Syria.

The main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, called for "immediate" Arab and international military intervention, including setting up safe corridors for humanitarian aid and a no-fly zone to protect civilians.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 16 people were killed Sunday night in Homs, while the Local Coordination Committees said 45 were killed. Both groups said children were among the dead.

They accused "shabiha," gunmen akin to a militia that basically do the government's bidding and who have played a major role in trying to crush the year-old uprising, of carrying out the killing.

Homs is the Syrian city hardest hit by violence since the uprising began in March last year. Several Homs neighborhoods, including Karm el-Zeytoun, where Sunday's deaths occurred, were controlled by rebels and retaken by government forces earlier this month.

The Observatory said after the killings, many people fled Karm el-Zeytoun and other nearby neighborhoods, fearing pro-government gunmen might carry out more reprisals.

Pictures posted online by activists showed the bodies of five children who were disfigured after being apparently hit with sharp objects. At least six dead adults were shown covered with sheets.

An amateur video posted online showed men wrapping the bodies of the dead with white cloth, in accordance with Muslim tradition, before burial.

"This is what they do to us, the Sunnis. The Sunnis are being wiped out. They are the ones who are dying at the hands of Iran and the Shiites," shouted a man in the background. Shiite Iran is one of the Assad regime's few remaining allies. The authenticity of the videos could not be independently confirmed.

Another video aired on state-run Syrian TV showed bodies in three different places in Karm el-Zeytoun.

The first was of a family killed inside their home, showing a dead man on what appeared to be a couch with children next to him. The other was of three handcuffed men on a street, while the third was in a building under construction, where five bodies were lying on the ground.

It was not clear if the family shown on state TV was the same one that activists posted in their picture. The TV did not say when the killing occurred or how many people died.

The Syrian government accused armed groups in Homs of kidnapping people, then killing and disfiguring them in order to bring international condemnation onto the regime.

Assad's government attributes the uprising to armed groups and terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy.

Bureau Report