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Houla massacre fault of anti-government groups, says Syria

The Syrian government blamed last week's massacre in Houla on anti-government forces as the UN prepares for a formal inquiry into the killings.

Houla massacre blamed on anti government forces syriaEnlarge
Syrian fighters hold their weapons at a checkpoint controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at Epin, in the north-western province of Idlib, on April 15, 2012. The Syrian government blamed the massacre in Houla on anti-government forces on May 31, 2012, while activists maintained that it was pro-government forces that carried out the killings of 108 people. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

The Syrian government said on Thursday that a preliminary investigation revealed that anti-government forces were responsible for the Houla massacre that claimed the lives of over 100 Syrian civilians including many women and children, Reuters reported.

Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, who headed the investigation committee, said the victims were those "who refused to oppose the government and were at odds with the armed groups."

He said 600 to 800 men attacked security forces in the region while armed men murdered the families, stating that relatives of a member of parliament were among the 108 victims.

"The aim is to bring foreign military intervention against the country in any form and way," he told a news conference in Damascus, according to Reuters.

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The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said government troops once again used machine guns and mortar shells against Houla on Thursday, where the massacre took place just last week, according to the Associated Press.

At least one young man was killed by sniper fire as Syrians fled from Houla, fearing another massacre.

Activists said government forces and pro-regime fighters known as shabiha were responsible for the Houla massacre, reported the AP.

The BBC's correspondent said: "The pattern: the army shells a rebel-held area; then the paramilitary shabiha, "the ghosts", go in, cutting throats."

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United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said there were "strong suspicions" that the shabiha gangs, pro-government militiamen, were responsible for the massacre, according to Voice of America.

Hozan Ibrahim, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, told Voice of America that the shabiha have become a government tool under the Assad regime for suppressing protests and killing rebels. He said, "We can find [majority] Sunnis, Alawites, Druze [in the shabiha] - whoever is loyal to the regime."

The UN said recently that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria in since the uprising began last year, and nearly 300 UN observers have been deployed in the country to monitor a cease-fire that failed to go into effect, according to the AP.

Speaking in Istanbul, Turkey, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said UN observers were not deployed "just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents," according to The Los Angeles Times.

Ban said the Houla massacre "could plunge Syria into a civil war — a civil war from which the country would never recover," reported The LA Times.

Reuters reported that the top United Nations human rights body is expected to call for a "full UN inquiry" into the Houla massacre on Friday in its fourth meeting devoted to Syria since the beginning of the year.

But European Union countries are not backing the resolution because of concerns it is not harsh enough toward the Syrian government. 

"The general feeling is that the text is weak," an Arab diplomat said to the news wire.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/120531/houla-massacre-fault-anti-government-groups-says-syria