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Massacre in Tremseh? Syrians deny it but evidence mounts

Death toll estimates of 200 in the village of Tremseh are not confirmed. But eyewitnesses say, and amateur videos show, an attack. Syrian officials blame 'terrorists.'

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"We saw the events," he said, adding that he was a few kilometers (miles) from the village. "Lots of people tried to get the families out but they weren't able to."

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After the shelling, the army entered with pro-government thugs, known as shabiha, who gunned down and stabbed residents in the streets, he said.

Darwish said activists had compiled the names of about 200 dead, but he did not share the list. He said chaos reigned in the area as residents searched for the dead and missing.

Another activist, Abu Ghazi al-Hamwi, said local rebels, often called the Free Syrian Army, tried to fight off the army but couldn't.

"They kept shelling the city and the weapons that the Free Army had were not enough to keep them out," he said. "So they started trying to get out the wounded and the families by clashing in one place to open a way out."

He, too, put the dead at more than 200, but did not provide a list of names. He said many of the dead were killed when a shell collapsed the roof of a mosque where they had sought shelter.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that more than 160 people had been killed in Hama province, most of them in Tremseh, though it had the names of about 40 of them. It said dozens of the dead were rebel fighters and that the bodies of about 30 were totally burned. Others were stabbed.

Another video showed a tank in the street while large booms and gunfire are heard in the background. Activist claims and videos could not be independently verified.

The head of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, Gen. Robert Mood, confirmed the use of tanks and helicopters in Tremseh and said that his team stands ready to investigate, if there's a truce in the area.

The Syrian government gave a very different story of the Tremseh killing, with the state news agency saying that dozens of members of "armed terrorist groups" had raided the village and were randomly firing on residents.

Security forces clashed with the armed men, killing and capturing many of them, the report said. It said three soldiers and some 50 residents were killed.

The agency provided no photos or videos. Assad's regime considers the country's uprising to be the work of terrorists and extremists, not people seeking reform.

Activists say more than 17,000 people have been killed in the uprising, most of them civilians. The government says more than 4,000 members of the security forces have been killed. It does not provide numbers of civilian dead.

RECOMMENDED: Briefing: Who are Syria's 5 warring factions?

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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