Bodies of at least 65 young men are pulled from river in Syria following 'mass execution'

Chilling scenes greeted the city of Aleppo as dozens of bodies were dragged from a river and lined up on the bank

Beirut

The bodies of dozens of executed young men were discovered in a small canal in the Syrian city of Aleppo, before being dragged out and lined up on the muddy riverbank in a chilling scene that underscored the brutality of the country’s grinding civil war.

Foreign journalists were able to access the area and verify reports from rebels and activists that at least 65 corpses had been found in the Quweiq River in Bustan al-Qasr. An Agence France Presse correspondent at the scene said 78 bodies were recovered by the end of the day, with more still in the water, unable to be retrieved due to sniper fire.

In a haunting video posted by activists a cameraman picks his way through the bodies at the riverside. Bloated and mud-caked, many had their hands bound and appeared to have bullet wounds to the head, still seeping blood. After zooming in on 37 corpses – some of whom appear to be in their teens, dressed in jeans and trainers – he lifts his camera to the riverbank in front of him, where at least a dozen more bodies lie in the distance.

Residents gathered at the riverbank to search for missing loved ones.

“My brother disappeared weeks ago when he was crossing [through] the regime-held zone, and we don’t know where he is or what has become of him,” Mohammed Abdel Aziz told AFP as he examined the bodies.

The area of Bustan al-Qasr, a neighbourhood just northeast of the key battleground of Salaheddine, remains contested and has been the scene of intense battles and airstrikes since Aleppo was convulsed by fighting in July.

The city remains divided, as neither side appears able to take the upper hand in the street battles. The 129-mile Quweiq River begins in Turkey and travels through government and rebel held districts of Aleppo before it reaches Bustan al-Qasr.

It remains unclear who the men were, as none were carrying identification.

Both sides have been accused of committing summary executions in the past. While activists and rebels squarely blamed the government, speculating that the men may have been killed further upstream, a regime official told news agencies that the men had been kidnapped by “terrorists” for being pro-government and had been executed in a park on Monday night.

“Now these terrorist groups are creating a media campaign, showing the bodies being recovered from the Quweiq River in an area under their control,” he said.

“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.”

Over the past 22-months the Syrian conflict has morphed from a popular uprising into a multifaceted and increasingly sectarian war, claiming more than 60,000 lives. 

Activists said the bodies were loaded onto trucks and taken away to be identified.

Another video showed the bodies of seven men piled into the back of a truck, one with a gaping wound in his head, eight more lying in the street, some covered with tarpaulin as crowds milled around. The video cuts to others in a pool of blood-stained water in the back of a white flatbed truck.

“They were killed only because they are Muslims,” said a bearded man in another video, speaking in front of a pickup truck piled with bodies.

Though corpses of men killed execution-style have been discovered in the city before, this was by far the largest mass killing to be publicised, adding Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr to the string of place names that will be remembered for the atrocities that took place there.

“This is another new massacre that has been committed in Syria, adding to the constant massacres that have been occurring, while the world watches silently and the international and Arab community are being hypocrites,” the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in astatement. The Local Coordination Committees put the death toll across the country at 157, including 80 dead in Bustan al-Qasr.

AFP correspondent Antonio Rodriguez told The Independent that he had counted 78 bodies that had been pulled from the river in a makeshift morgue at the nearby Yarmuk School. “There were 78 corpses in four rows and covered with blue sheets, beside them a number,” he said.

“Families came to identify them. Most of the dead had a single shot to the head, and his hands tied behind his back, leaving no doubt that they were executed.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Lavigne performing in Seoul at the beginning of last year
people
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst - Level 2

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of financial software so...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?