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Syria, bloody Syria: Army shells, kills more civilians



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The observers were blocked by government troops and residents, and coming under small arms fire when they tried to enter the area on Thursday.

The scene held evidence of a "horrific crime," said U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh.

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The U.N. team was the first independent group to arrive in Mazraat al-Qubair, a village of about 160 people. Opposition activists and Syrian government officials blamed each other for the killings and differed about the number of dead.

Activists said that up to 78 people, including women and children, were shot, hacked and burned to death, saying pro-government militiamen known as "shabiha" were responsible. A government statement on the state-run news agency SANA said "an armed terrorist group" killed nine women and children before Hama authorities were called and killed the attackers.

Ghosheh, the U.N. observers spokeswoman, said the residents’ accounts of the mass killing were "conflicting," and that they needed to cross check the names of the missing and dead with those supplied by nearby villagers. Mazraat al-Qubair itself was "empty of the local inhabitants," she said.

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Associated Press writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.




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