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Assad denies Houla massacre role

President Bashar al-Assad

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President Bashar al-Assad: “Terrorists are criminals”

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has denied his government’s forces had any role in the Houla massacre.

More than 100 people, many of them children, were killed in the attack overnight between 25 and 26 May, most knifed or shot at close range.

Mr Assad described the killings as an “ugly crime” that even “monsters” would not carry out.

Addressing parliament, he blamed “foreign meddling” for Syria’s divisions.

“What happened in Houla and elsewhere (in Syria) are brutal massacres which even monsters would not have carried out,” he said in the televised address.

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Houla massacre

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  • Residents of Taldou village in the Houla region say that after an anti-government protest on 25 May, the army began an 18-hour bombardment
  • Some accounts say rebel fighters attacked the military position from where shellfire was coming
  • Unconfirmed reports say pro-government shabiha militia entered Taldou, killing people at home, shooting them in the head or cutting their throats
  • UN observers say at least 108 people died, including 49 children and 34 women. No more than 20 appeared to have been killed by shellfire
  • A government investigation blames armed groups seeking to trigger foreign military intervention

UN investigators have said most of the dead were summarily executed, and eyewitnesses had said pro-government militias had carried out most of the killings.

The massacre has triggered international condemnation and led to several countries expelling Syrian diplomats in protest.

‘Red line’

Mr Assad again blamed “terrorists”, supported by foreign powers, for fomenting discord and creating “a project of… dissent” inside the country.

He said Syria was “facing attempts to weaken Syria, breach its sovereignty”.

The only way to resolve the crisis, he said, was through political dialogue. But he said he would not negotiate with those who, he said, did not represent the will of the Syrian people.

Violence continued on Saturday in Syria where, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted by Agence France Presse, 89 people, including 57 soldiers were killed.

It was the largest number of casualties the military has suffered in a single day since the uprising began in March 2011.

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