'Massacre' feared in Syrian town
Beirut - The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday it fears security forces carried out a massacre in the province of Daraa, where dozens of civilians disappeared after being cornered in a valley.
"There are fears regime forces carried out a massacre in Sahm al-Julan," the Britain-based group said in an e-mailed statement, referring to a village in the southern province, cradle of an 11-month revolt in Syria.
It said that, on Wednesday night, troops backed by heavy military equipment launched an assault on the village, terrorising residents who fled to a nearby valley where rebel soldiers had been hiding.
"The defectors retreated from the area, fearing for the safety of the civilians chased by Syrian troops, who surrounded them with the apparent aim of carrying out a massacre," the Observatory said.
It added that residents from a nearby village subsequently heard gunfire and witnesses reported security forces had used "toxic bombs".
"Witnesses said security forces shot at the civilians and then piled them onto pick-up trucks," the Observatory said. "Their fate is unknown."
The monitoring group urged authorities to reveal what had happened to dozens of village residents "who were fired upon in cold blood." It provided the names of 14 of those who were feared to have been killed.