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Terrorism & Security

'Atrocity on a new scale'? Syrians piece together story of Daraya massacre

The Syrian opposition is disseminating video footage from the town of Daraya this weekend that tells of a government massacre that may have left more than 600  people dead. 

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“It is clear that was collective punishment,” Khaled Al-Shami, an activist from Damascus, told the Associated Press. “I am certain that the coming days will reveal more massacres, but by then others will have taken place and people will forget about Daraya.”  Mr. Shami also said that Daraya was under a de facto curfew Sunday, as Syrian government forces carried out house-to-house searches.

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The AP adds that the regime's campaign in Dayara is being carried out by an elite division of the military led by President Assad's brother, Maher.  Although it is unclear what prompted the campaign, the AP notes that Daraya abuts the capital's military airport, which activists say Assad intends to use as a gateway out of Damascus should the situation turn fully against the regime.

The Independent of London writes that the attack on Daraya began last week with five days of bombardment by tanks and helicopters. Late Friday, regime troops began systematically moving through the suburb, advancing 200 yards at a time.  "They would then shell the streets in front of them and raid the area," activists told The Independent.

Syrian state media blamed rebels for the violence, reports Agence France-Presse, and claimed that regime forces had "purified [Daraya] of terrorist remnants."

Pro-government television Al-Dunia said "terrorists" carried out the attacks, as it interviewed residents including traumatised children and showed a number of bloodied bodies lying in the streets.

"Our valiant armed forces cleared Daraya of the remnants of armed terrorist groups which committed crimes that traumatised the citizens of the town and destroyed public and private property," government newspaper Ath-Thawra said.

Assad, at a meeting with a top official from regional ally Iran, accused Western and neighboring powers of being behind a "conspiracy" against the Syrian regime, and promised he would not yield to pressure.  "The Syrian people will not allow this conspiracy to achieve its objectives" and will defeat it "at any price," he said.

IN PICTURES: Conflict in Syria

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