At least 25 people have been killed in what the Syrian government calls a “massacre” by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo.
A video has emerged showing more than a dozen bloodied corpses, some of them piled on top of each other and in military uniforms.
The circumstances of the killings were not immediately clear but in the video – which could not be independently verified – the narrator said the dead were members of the “shabiha,” the pro-regime gunmen who have blamed for a series of atrocities against Government opponents.
Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, said terrorist groups had killed and mutilated at least 25 people in Daret Azzeh, a rebel-held area.
The government refers to all its opponents as terrorists.
“The terrorist groups in Daret Azzeh committed a brutal massacre against the citizens, whom they had kidnapped earlier in the day,” SANA said.
The report said others were missing.
Although the city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, has been relatively quiet since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March last year, towns and villages around it have witnessed intense clashes.
Activists say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the uprising began.
Daret Azzeh has endured intense government shelling over the past two weeks as Mr Assad’s forces try to regain areas taken by rebels.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four senior army officers have defected from the regime. The group provided a video purporting to show two brigadier generals and two colonels who declared they were joining the opposition.
The group said the defections came yesterday – the same day a Syria fighter pilot flew his MiG-21 warplane to neighbouring Jordan, where he was given asylum.
Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the regime, but most are low-level conscripts. The Free Syria Army, the loosely linked group of rebel forces, is made up largely of defectors.