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.”

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin