Survivor describes Syria mass killing

2012-08-07 07:37

Anadan — The guards pulled him from his cell before dawn on Monday, bound his hands, blindfolded him and drove him to an empty lot in the Syrian city of Aleppo. They sat him in a row with 10 other captives, he said, then cocked their guns and opened fire.

"They sprayed us," recalled 21-year-old Mahmoud, the lone survivor of the latest mass killing of Syria's civil war. "The first bullet hit my chest, then one hit my foot, then my head. As soon as my head got hit, I thought, 'I'm dead'."

Reports of such killings have surfaced frequently during the 17 months of deadly violence that activists seeking to topple President Bashar Assad say has killed more than 19 000 people.

But details are usually scarce — no more than activist reports or amateur videos of bloodied bodies or mass graves posted on YouTube.

Mahmoud related his grisly ordeal to The Associated Press hours after it happened. Struggling to speak, he lay in a bed in a makeshift rebel-run field hospital set up in a wedding hall in this town 20km north of Aleppo.

Bandages covered his foot, head and chest. Plastic vines and coloured lights adorned the walls of the darkened building, and two red velvet chairs once used by brides and grooms sat on a small stage.

Increasingly brutal

Mahmoud gave only his first name to protect his family who still live in the area.

While his story could not be independently confirmed, Mahmoud's wounds matched his story and residents who found him and his dead colleagues corroborated certain details.

Together, they painted a picture of the summary slaying of 10 men, at least some of whom had only loose links to the armed rebels seeking to topple the regime.

That story jibes with activist claims of the increasingly brutal tactics regime forces are using to try to crush the rebellion that has spread to Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

Syria's uprising started in March 2011 with peaceful protests calling for political reforms that were met with a fierce regime crackdown. Government brutality grew as dissent spread, and many in the opposition took up arms as the conflict morphed into a civil war.

Aleppo has been a stronghold of government support throughout the uprising, with a wealthy business class and many minority communities who fear they'll suffer if Assad falls. Until recently, the city of about 4 million people had been spared the violence that has ravaged other Syrian cities.

Army gearing up

But during the last two weeks, rebels have been pushing into Aleppo's neighbourhoods, clashing with security forces and torching police stations in a push to "liberate" the city.

Syrian media has vowed the army is gearing up for a "decisive battle", while anti-regime activists have reported swelling numbers of troops and tanks on the city's edges.

The Syrian government blames the uprising on armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign powers that seek to weaken Syria.

It was amid these tensions that Mahmoud, a Palestinian resident of Aleppo, had his fateful brush with Syrian security.

On Thursday, Mahmoud said, he and a friend went to collect their paychecks from the thread factory where they work and heard clashes nearby. Soon eight men in civilian clothes stopped them and asked for their IDs and cell phones.

On Mahmoud's phone they found videos of anti-government demonstrations and messages he sent to rebels from the Free Syrian Army, asking God to protect them and make them victorious.

Judgement day

The men threw Mahmoud and his friend in the trunk of a car and drove them to a trash dump, where they were blindfolded, bound and beaten with sticks and large rocks before being taken to a security office.

Mahmoud was locked in a crowded cell with about a dozen other men, he said. Each day, some were taken out and new ones brought in.

"We were there for four days and they only gave us water to drink once. They never fed us," he said. "They never asked us anything. Every day it was beating, beating, beating."

Before dawn on Monday, guards pulled Mahmoud and 10 others from their cells and told they were going to see a judge. They were bound at the wrists, blindfolded and driven to Aleppo's Khaldiyeh neighbourhood, where they were lined up on a patch of rocky soil.

"They sat us all down next to each other, 'You here, you here, you here'," Mahmoud said. "Then each one cocked his weapon and the shooting started."

Mahmoud was shot three times. Bullets pierced his chest and foot and one grazed his skull. Minutes later, silence returned, and he realised he was still alive.

Pile of bodies

"I breathed, I said the shehada," he said, referring to the Muslim declaration of faith meant to put him right with God. "I tried to get up then started screaming because blood was coming out of me."

He scraped his face on a rock to remove the blindfold and crawled to where some nearby residents found him.

Among them was a 22-year-old electrician who said he heard the gunfire early on Monday and worried that people were being killed because he had discovered six bodies in the same spot a day earlier.

He showed videos of the victims on his cell phone, their bodies piled atop each other covered in blood, some bearing large bruises that appeared to be from beatings. He said all had been shot dead.

He and others asked not to have their names published because they have to pass through government checkpoints to get home.

The killings shocked residents of Khaldiyeh, a working-class neighbourhood on Aleppo's northwest side that has seen little violence until now. While many residents support the rebels, they have not established a foothold in the area, and the relative quiet has drawn thousands of people fleeing violence in other Aleppo neighbourhoods or nearby villages.


As Mahmoud spoke, a white pickup pulled up outside the field hospital with the bodies of nine of the men killed on Monday.

The body of the tenth victim had been taken away by his family. All still had their hands bound and two still wore blindfolds. Two had bullet wounds to their heads, and others had blood on their faces and chests or coming out of their ears. None wore shoes.

Those killings convinced one Khaldiyeh resident who helped collect the bodies that the neighbourhood needs arms.

"We want the Free Army to come to our neighbourhood to protect us," he said. "If they can't come, then they need to give us weapons so we can defend ourselves."

The field hospital's doctor, Mohammed Ajaj, said he is no longer shocked when the dead and wounded pass through town on their way to burial in nearby villages or for treatment across the northern border in Turkey.

Unknown victims

"We've gotten used to it," he said.

An 18-year-old activist who helped collect the bodies said none of them had IDs.

"We really know nothing about them," he said, adding that he would stop in neighbouring villages to see if anyone recognised them before delivering them to a morgue further north.

"If nobody claims them, we'll take their photos and put them on our Facebook page so their families can find out that they're dead," he said.

  • AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 08:00

    In just about any country in the world, if a government/regime were to commit JUST ONE atrocity, like discribed in this article, it would the end for them, almost immediately. But, HERE, we still got the ones, with sick and disturbed minds, who want to protect this assad monster, and come with all long and confusing stories, of "ifs and buts" There are no "ifs and buts" The only fact is; a terrorist army murdering their 'own people' by the thousands. A bunch of animals , led by a COWARD, like that gaddafi !!

      kevin.watson.7906 - 2012-08-07 09:14

      Simply not true AnthonyfromAfrica. In the 1980s Mugabes government did exactly that and remains in power with Mbeki's conivance. It has happened in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC and elsewhere in West Africa. It also happens in Columbia in South America. It rakes years to bring these governments down if ever.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 09:51

      The irony of your post Kevin is that the governments responsible for these atrocities, especially in South America, South East Asia and Mobutu in the Congo were supported and installed by the US, which has always pretended that it cares for human rights.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 10:07

      Fidel, The problem with you radicals is that you don't move on, It is the old story continiously; What happened 30 YEARS AGO, 40 YEARS AGO, 50 YEARS AGO , 60 YEARS AGO.....!! Get a grip on yourself, throw those dumb stupid 40 year old books away, and buy some current news magazines, MAYBE , than you will understand what is happening in certain countries !!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 10:16

      History is a good teacher! Only the very near sighted can suppose that they can defy historical gravity and float above it all, sublimely free of all roots. Which is why Kevin made reference to 1980s Zimbabwe.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 10:27

      Totally disagree with you, What is important===TODAY and TOMORROW ( not yesterday ) !!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 10:42

      The present and the future are built on the past. Ignorance of the History one does not know is one thing, and forgivable. Denying History when indeed one knows full well the sequence of events is another.

      solethu.matrose - 2012-08-07 11:26

      Assad should kill all these Terrorist includind their parent I never had of people so stupid in my life they can not see that America is spreading democracy as as the Queen was spreding the and they will loose their country like libya the only thing that they own in libya now is saif gadddafi case the country is gone but wait,, its not syrian people who are doing this it is america in A intrest to draw iran into the war so they can find excuse to bomb it. hope syrian government could survive this

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-07 11:59

      We'll see .

  • neutedop.opinie - 2012-08-07 08:01

    Geeez, how long will the world stand and watch? How long will politics take a first place to human lives?

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 08:40

    The rebels in Syria are learning a brutal lesson. If you stage an uprising, and you do not have the resources to overthrow your opponent, people, many people, innocent people will die.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 09:13

      It is soo easy to sit in the comfort of your home, your belly full, your fridge full, all comforts around you, and if there is the slightest disturbance, you phone the cops And to think, others gave their lives, for YOUR freedom, which you abuse and deny others the same., IS PLAIN SICKENING !!!

      kevin.watson.7906 - 2012-08-07 09:16

      Back to justifying oppression by unelected regimes. If the English had behaved as you suggest they would still be ruled by a King with absolute power, similarly in Russia and China and the USA.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 09:37

      @Kevin I am not justifying oppression but merely stating a fact. It is suicidal and irresponsible for these militias to think that they could take on a brutal regime without any resources. It's akin to MK trying to depose the well armed professional Apartheid regime. It would have been suicidal. What do you think Botha would have done. The Syrian government has communicated its willingness to negotiate but these terrorists aren't interested and have chosen to prolong this conflict, even though they have no chance of total victory in the interim. The Syrian government is still the authority in that country responsible for the security of a lot of Syrians, whether we like this or not. They are still the diplomatically recognised government of that country, irrespective of what the UNGA says.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 10:02

      ""The Syrian government is still the authority in that country responsible for the security of a lot of Syrians, whether we like this or not"" You just make this up. The by far majority of UN members, don't any longer accept assad's terrorist regime, to be the legitimate 'government' of syria If YOU like it or not !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 10:20

      Still "all" those countries have diplomatic ties with Syria, and that Syria still has its UN seat. Whether you like this or not.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 11:11

      Most ambassadors have been recalled, and will only return, when a new government is in place! The Syrian govenment has no seat at the UN. Syria as a country has !! Let's hope the day is soon, that the Syrian ambassador at the UN, also has had enough of this assad mass murderer!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 11:52

      The only Ambassadors to live Syria for political reasons are from the EU countries. A few embassies have closed because of the worsening security in the country, while they themselves haven't kicked out the Syrian envoys from their own countries, just like in SA. What you wish for and reality are two separate things!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 11:53

      "The Syrian govenment has no seat at the UN. Syria as a country has !!" Straw-man argument doesn't even begin to cover this one...

  • peanutcluster - 2012-08-07 09:07

    Syria has been infiltrated by terrorists sponsored by the medieval theocracy in neighboring Saudi! The killing would have stopped ages ago if parties in the region were committed to a political solution!

      jaba.kov - 2012-08-07 12:16

      Agree. At first I supported the uprising, however, when the brutal murders on BOTH sides were seen by the world I decided that both sides here are killers. I pray the killings ends as soon as possible. But I can no longer verbally support any side. The conclusion... The only "spring" in the famous line "Arab spring" is the flowers lining the graves of Arab youth across the middle east. The religion of so called peace has lots to answer for.

  • henk.jacobs.146 - 2012-08-07 11:17

    And you really think this is about human lives. This is plain old politics nothing more, and people dying is collateral damage, no less. So have you got the other side of the story yet, since this one is so hard pushed into our about the rebels, or should we just call a spade a spade, and call them terrorists, for that is what they are, what about their attrocities, who are reporting on their human rights violations? Ohh, sorry they don't do that, they are just fighting for freedom...the same as in Egypt, and Libia,etc where the poor Muslim brotherhood are now helping to commit mass murders against christians. The same people who started the whole "Arab Spring"... who are supported by ...who want to take a guess???

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 11:39

      Henk, You can call the opposition, whatever you fancy. It was that other mass murderer, that prostitue gaddafi, who started calling his opposition names, like 'rebels and......rats' Than came this assad thug along and calls his opposition 'terrorists. And than thec radicals, like a bunch of sheep, also calls them terrorists But; IN EVERY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, THEY ARE CALLED; OPPOSITION And the oppositions atrocities are also deplorable, and condemded by their leadership. ""and Libia,etc where the poor Muslim brotherhood are now helping to commit mass murders against christians"" Where did you hear this ?? In the bar at 2 am ??

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 11:47

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 13:09

    @Moderator Has there been a shift change, I see that there's been a lot of activity regarding the thumb up/down votes. You full no one.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-07 13:23

      Paranoia again , CIA agent is moderating . Watch out its the global MSM Jewish cabal showing their intent. False flag operation , conspiracy on the orders of the NWO .

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 13:34

      Sudenly interested in 'thumbs up/down'\???? Did you not say, it was totally unimportant, that this was not a high school contest ??? A shift in thinking??? You fool no one !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-07 13:51

      Am not interested at all other than pointing out to the stupid mods that they aren't fooling anyone.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 14:06

      hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha !!!!!

  • henk.jacobs.146 - 2012-08-07 17:54

    AnthonyfromAfrica you are very ready to call a lot of people bad names, like cowards and animals, but maybe you are not from Africa at all, for your ignorance is showing man! I don't think you really know what is going on in Africa at all, and to hide that ignorance you call people bad names an put them in places like bars - can't you do any better than that? Like maybe first try and get the whole story before jumping to all kinds of conclusions and name callings. I do not say that Gadaffi was a good person, nor do I say that Assad is a good person or for that matter any other politician, for their does not exist any government anymore that are by the people for the people, they are just there for themselves and they use the media to make mushrooms out of all of us, or at least they try, so be a very happy mushroom if you will but I will not be lied to like this (I won't be kept in the dark and fed a lot of b/s anymore) but you are more than welcome to it...just try to get the whole picture before starting to make your colourful remarks

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-08-07 21:29

      Henk, The ones who I call ,cowards and animals, are never readers on this site, who posts comments, but 'bad' leaders !! And yes, my comment; "In a bar at 2 am" , is not ok. My apology !

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