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The bodies of 16 men who died under torture at the hands of Syria's feared security forces have been handed to their families, a monitoring group said early Friday.
"We have received information of the death under torture at the hands of regime forces of 16 men from Harasta," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Tens of thousands of people are believed to be held in Syria's jails, and rights groups have condemned President Bashar al-Assad's regime for systematically torturing detainees.
It is unknown when the 16 from Harasta died, but the Observatory says the reports of their deaths emerged after the bodies were handed back to their families from a Damascus hospital.
"It happens all too frequently that the bodies of detainees with torture marks are handed back to their families," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
"I fear for the lives of thousands of other detainees."
Abdel Rahman also said the security forces frequently threaten the families of killed detainees into silence.
"It happens very often that a detainee who has been tortured to death is buried in secret, because of threats to the families by the security forces," he said.
Harasta and other rebel strongholds near Damascus have been under immense army pressure in recent weeks, as the regime has pressed a campaign to secure the capital.
The Observatory also reported early Friday the killing of at least five women in shelling by regime forces of Karak.
"At least five women were killed... in shelling of eastern Karak," a town in the southern province of Daraa, it said.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's 27-month war, which morphed into an insurgency after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against peaceful dissent.