Most of the victims of last week's massacre in Houla, Syria, were "summarily executed," the United Nations has said.
Fewer than 20 of the 108 people killed last Friday died in heavy-weapons fire, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, told reporters today.
"Most of the rest of the victims were summarily executed in two separate incidents," the Associated Press quoted him as saying. "At this point it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."
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According to the AP, the UN based its conclusions on witness testimony "corroborated by other sources."
The BBC has spoken to survivors and activists who claim that house-to-house attacks were carried out by pro-government militiamen, known as shabiha, from nearby Alawite villages.
According to their accounts, the BBC said, "men from the shabiha entered people's houses in army fatigues and either cut their throats or shot them in the head from approximately 16:00 to 01:00 on Saturday morning."
Syrian officials maintain the killings were conducted by "terrorists."
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The UN Security Council yesterday condemned the Syrian government for its use of tank and artillery fire in Houla, but stopped short of blaming its forces for close-range attacks.
Russia has said it believes both pro-regime forces and rebels were responsible for the atrocities. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused other countries of seeking to use the massacre as "a pretext to take up military measures," RIA Novosti news agency reported.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan began talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus this morning in an effort to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the New York Times reported.
Annan, who has called the Houla massacre "an appalling moment with profound consequences," will push Damascus to honor the peace deal he brokered in March.
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