AFP - Getty Images
Syrian women show their distress after entering a makeshift morgue containing the bodies of mainly women and children in Bab al-Sebaa, a neighborhood in the restive city of Homs, in a handout picture made available by a Syrian opposition group Monday.
Dozens of civilians were killed in cold blood in the Syrian city of Homs, opposition activists and Syrian state media said on Monday, although they disputed responsibility for what both sides called a massacre.
The carnage in Homs, as well as a military assault on the northwestern city of Idlib, coincided with a weekend peace mission by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who left Damascus Sunday without agreement on a truce or humanitarian access.
"The terrorist armed groups have kidnapped scores of civilians in the city of Homs, central Syria, killed, and mutilated their corpses and filmed them to be shown by media outlets," state news agency SANA said on its website.
Footage posted by opposition activists on YouTube showed men, women and children lying dead in a blood-drenched room.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists, said at least 45 women and children had been stabbed and burned in the Homs district of Karm al-Zeitoun.
It said another seven people were slain in the city's Jobar district, which adjoins the former rebel bastion of Baba Amr.
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Activists contacted in Homs accused Alawite militiamen loyal to President Bashar Assad of carrying out the killings under the protection of regular Syrian military forces.
BBC News reported that Mulham al-Jundi, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council, said the district of Karm el-Zeitoun was being hit by a bombardment similar to the one experienced by Baba Amr recently.
Al-Jundi added that Assad’s troops were firing rockets, then going in "and killing the families who stay inside these areas."
'Why is this going on?'
American journalist Marie Colvin, who was among those killed in Baba Amr, was due to be laid to rest in the Long Island community of her childhood where she first decided to become a reporter.
A funeral was scheduled to be held Monday at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay, N.Y., for the journalist, who worked for the U.K.'s Sunday Times newspaper and was killed while covering the slaughter of Syrian civilians.
The 56-year-old Queens native spoke her last words in a television dispatch from a village, while watching a baby boy dying. She said seeing the horror might "move people to think, why is this going on?"
At her wake Sunday, mourners passed by a portrait of Colvin by a Sri Lankan artist. She lost her left eye in 2001 in that country's civil war and wore her signature eye patch since then.
Colvin was killed on Feb. 22 when the building that served as a makeshift media center in the village of Homs was struck by a Syrian army mortar.
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Only a few hours earlier, she appeared in a final live broadcast with CNN's Anderson Cooper, telling him the Syrians were shelling "a city of cold, starving civilians."
"It's a complete and utter lie that they are only going after terrorists," she added. "There are no military targets here."
The victims were civilians. "Absolutely horrific, a 2-year old child had been hit," Colvin said. "His little tummy just kept heaving until he died."
Syrian government restrictions make it difficult to assess conflicting reports by the authorities and their opponents since a popular uprising against Assad began a year ago.
SANA said the Homs killings reported Monday were "perpetrated by the armed terrorist groups and aired by (satellite TV channels) al-Jazeera and Arabiya ... coincide with today's U.N. Security Council session to call for foreign interference in Syria."
The Security Council holds a special meeting on Arab revolts later Monday and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines.
Russia and China have blocked attempts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning Damascus for its attempts to crush the rebellion, in which the United Nations says well over 7,500 people have been killed. Syrian authorities said in December insurgents had killed over 2,000 soldiers and police.
The United States has drafted a new resolution, but Washington and Paris say they doubt it will be accepted.
China sounded an optimistic note, but gave no details.
"China has actively participated in discussion about this draft resolution, and raised its ideas about revising it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said Monday. "We also support the international community playing an active role in a political solution to the Syria issue."
China and Russia, as well as Western and Arab nations, have voiced support for Annan's peace mission, but no common ground has emerged between Assad, who is bent on crushing dissent, and his opponents, who are determined to overthrow him.
"The situation is so bad and so dangerous that all of us cannot afford to fail," Annan said in Damascus Sunday.
Moscow and Beijing want any international blame for the violence to be apportioned evenly and say both sides should be encouraged to stop fighting. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken a hawkish line, calling for the rebels to be armed.
"The regime in Syria is committing a massacre of its own citizens," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Sunday after talks with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle.
Westerwelle said in Riyadh: "We cannot accept the completely unreasonable continuation of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Assad regime against its own people."
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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