The bodies of dozens of young men, all apparently executed with gunshots to the head or neck, have been found in a river in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, media cited activists and rebels as saying.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 65 bodies were found in the Quweiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo.
Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera on Tuesday quoted a Free Syrian Army fighter as saying the death count is higher and “must be more than 100,” as many more bodies were still being dragged from the water.
The BBC on Tuesday cited diplomats as saying UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told a closed-door UN Security Council session hours after the find that he had no progress in Syria to report, and added that the government’s legitimacy had been “seriously, probably irreparably, damaged.”
Activists accused forces loyal to President Bashar Assad of killing the victims, but a Syrian government official said many of the victims had been abducted earlier and blamed “terrorists” for the abductions and killings.
At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since March 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said, citing new analysis released by the United Nations in early January.
Russia has faced heavy international criticism over its refusal to back UN sanctions against Syria, its last ally in the Arab world, over what it called the pro-rebel bias of some resolutions proposed by western nations. Moscow denies it is backing President Bashar Assad and says it is concerned the Syrian president’s enforced departure would only worsen the conflict.