Disturbing and graphic video footage smuggled out of Syria has shed light on the brutal methods being used by President Bashar al-Assad's regime to crush the anti-government uprising.
The video, which was passed to Amnesty International, shows injured civilians being viciously bludgeoned, a mosque under attack during a night-time raid and soldiers celebrating the deaths of protesters.
It was taken in and around Deraa, the southern city close to the Jordanian border which has become the crucible of Syria's insurrection.
The 30-minute film, which was shot in late March and April, gives a glimpse of the brutal tactics which human rights groups say the Syrian regime is using to quell dissent.
In a scene, filmed after a recent raid on a rebel-held mosque in Deraa, soldiers and armed men in plain clothes are seen standing over corpses as they shout: "Take pictures, we killed them, they are traitors."
In another scene, injured men – who appear to have been shot – are being severely beaten as they lie on the floor.
A spokesman for Amnesty said the footage highlighted the "wanton cruelty" of the regime's security apparatus. "These videos add to the damning collection of reasons why the UN Security Council must take decisive action and refer Syria to the International Criminal Court over its brutal crackdown against pro-reform protesters," the spokesman said.
The city of Deraa has become the fulcrum of the Syrian uprising. Mass demonstrations first erupted there on 18 March after 15 schoolboys were arrested for anti-regime graffiti.
A month later President Assad, who in a newspaper interview in January had brushed aside suggestions that his country was ripe for unrest, sent troops and tanks into the city to crush the disturbances. Since then the government has employed similar tactics around the country, sending tanks into other cities and using the intelligence agencies to round up thousands of civilians.
Rights groups say that between 750 and 1,000 people have been killed in the crackdown. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the security forces and army have killed at least 350 people in Deraa alone.
Homes have been shelled, men and women shot dead by snipers and mosques attacked by gunmen. The report also accuses the secret police of torturing detainees.
Adding to the increasing evidence of brutality, the Reuters news agency released the testimony of one of its correspondents, Suleiman al-Khalidi, who had been held by the regime for four days. "The young man was dangling upside down, white, foaming saliva dripping from his mouth. His groans sounded more bestial than human," he said in the report.
A young woman, who was arrested during the uprising despite being heavily pregnant, said her father, an activist from the Deraa region, had been detained this month and was now being held in jail.Reuse content