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Syria activists: 78 killed in village

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:04 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 35 of the victims are from one family, activists say
  • Half of the dead are women and children
  • Activists say the deaths happened after Syrian forces shelled the village
  • Syrian government blames terrorist group for killings

(CNN) -- At least 78 people were killed in one Syrian village Wednesday, with at least half of the dead women and children, Syrian opposition activists said.

The deaths happened in Qubeir, a small farming village of 200 people in Hama province, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. It blamed the deaths on Syrian government forces.

Syrian state TV later accused an "armed terrorist group" of carrying out the killings.

Just 10 families live in Qubeir in a cluster of about 20 homes, said Lt. Khaled Ali, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army's military council in Hama.

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The Local Coordination Committees said that 35 of the dead are from one family.

Rami Abdulrahman, a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another activist group, confirmed "dozens" of deaths in Qubeir but said he could not give a specific number "until all names have been confirmed."

An activist who was less than two miles from Qubeir also said that at least 78 people had been killed the village. He said he was working with others to evacuate the bodies, many of which were burned.

He said 38 of the victims were men, and the rest were women and children.

A video posted on YouTube late Wednesday showed a row of bodies covered in blankets, which the cameraman said were from Qubeir. The first body is that of a child, and another body is charred.

The cameraman says the location is Maarzaf, a town near Qubeir, and he gives the date as June 6. CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video.

The deaths happened after regime tanks shelled the village for at least an hour, activists say. Militias loyal to the regime then went through the village, executing people with knives and guns, Ali and the Local Coordination Committees said.

Rebels face off with regime troops in 'sniper alley'

Ali said that Qubeir is surrounded by villages that support the Alawite regime of President Bashar al-Assad and that the militia members came from two of the neighboring villages.

Syrian state TV said an "armed terrorist group" had committed the "horrifying crime" in Qubeir. It did not mention an overall death toll but said nine women and children were killed, some of them with their legs and hands tied.

State TV also reported that government forces were headed to the village to help.

"An official source in Hama says that the security forces have responded to calls for help and complaints from the people in al-Qubeir ... and raided a terrorist cell and killed a number of them and confiscated their weapons," state TV reported.

The incident in Qubeir follows last month's massacre of more than 100 people in the town of Houla, just south of the Hama area. Members of the U.N. Security Council have blamed the Houla massacre on government forces.

"The massacre of Qubeir is an exact repeat of what we saw in Houla," Ali said Wednesday.

Al-Assad denies that his forces were behind the Houla killings.

State TV noted that the Qubeir killings happened a day before the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council plan to hold meetings on the 15-month Syrian crisis. It said the massacre was intended "to be used to pressure Syria."

CNN's Yousuf Basil, Amir Ahmed and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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