ALEPPO (SYRIA): The bodies of at least 65 young men and boys, all executed with a single gunshot to the head or neck, were found on Tuesday in a river in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a watchdog and rebels said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 65 bodies were found in the Quweiq River, which separates the Bustan al-Qasr district from Ansari in the southwest of the city, but that the toll could rise significantly. A Free Syrian Army officer at the scene said at least 68 bodies had been recovered and that many more were still being dragged from the water, in a rebel-held area.
"Until now we have recovered 68 bodies, some of them just teens," saidCaptain Abu Sada, adding that all of them had been "executed by the regime."
"But there must be more than 100. There are still many in the water, and we are trying to recover them."
A senior government security source said many of the victims were from Bustan al-Qasr and had been reported kidnapped earlier.
He accused "terrorists," the standard regime term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, of carrying out the executions and spreading propaganda to deflect responsibility.
"They were kidnapped by terrorist groups, who some are accusing of being pro-regime, and executed last night in a park in Bustan al-Qasr under their control," the source told AFP by telephone.
"Now these terrorist groups are creating a media campaign, showing the bodies being recovered from the Quweiq River in an area under their control.
"It has been confirmed that a number of the victims had been abducted by armed terrorist groups and their families had made repeated attempts to negotiate their releases.
"We will disclose the identities of those killed as soon as we are able to secure the bodies, which is a difficult process since the area is in the hands of terrorist groups," the source said.
A volunteer said as he helped load one of the bodies on a truck: "We don't know who they are because there was no ID on them.
At least 15 bodies could already be seen on the truck, an AFP correspondent said, with other continuing to arrive.