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In Syrian Town, NPR Reporter Sees Blood-Soaked Carpets

June 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Friday morning brought a new barrage of shelling in the Syrian city of Homs. Also, U.N. monitors saw evidence of multiple killings in a small town where activists reported a massacre. They said they found flesh, blood and piles of ash but no bodies. NPR's Deborah Amos joins Ray Suarez by phone from Damascus.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to Syria, where violent clashes erupted again between government forces and the opposition.

Ray Suarez has our report.

RAY SUAREZ: Friday morning brought a new barrage of shelling in the city of Homs. Amateur video captured a series of explosions in one of the rebel-held neighborhoods, plumes of smoke rising into the sky.

In Damascus, U.N. observers again departed for the small farming town of Mazraat al-Qubair in Hama province, where yesterday they came under fire. Today, they were able to reach the site where activists say at least 78 people were killed earlier this week.

Deborah Amos of NPR news was with U.N. monitors earlier today and joins us now from Damascus by phone.

DEBORAH AMOS, NPR: We walked into buildings. There were carpets that were blood -soaked. There was gore still on the floor. You could see low shots. And some of the witnesses who did step forward say that is where the children were shot.

These were low down. You could imagine them crouching before they were killed. There were dead animals in the dirt there. Buildings were scorched. A couple of buildings had giant what looked like shell holes, big holes that sort of blew out the sides of these places. So whatever happened in this village, it was pretty horrific.

RAY SUAREZ: Are there any witnesses to what did happen in the village who can tell how it all went down, how this unfolded?

DEBORAH AMOS: When we were still out on the road (AUDIO GAP) into the village, a man drove on a motorcycle and says his sons and his brothers and his cousins had all been killed. He was the first one to give us a number at about 78.

And he said it was pro-government militias from neighboring villages who came in to do the killing. There were fresh graves dug right behind the mosque in the village. And these young people said to us what happened is the military came in on Thursday and said, you will bury all of the dead before the U.N. gets here. And they did.

So, there was no bodies to see. That forensic evidence was lost. And the investigators, you know, said that is going to be a problem. It’s going to be hard to sort out how these people were killed without being able to see the bodies. And they’re already buried.

RAY SUAREZ: The months of violence have forced tens of thousands to flee to refugee camps, like this one in Turkey. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lashed out at those who haven’t come to the aid of the Syrian people.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish prime minister (through translator): Those who watch the massacres taking place in Hama and in other cities across Syria silently, indifferently, and without any reaction should know that the blood that is being shed will splatter across their own faces and consciences.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: It is an honor to welcome here to the State Department the joint special envoy, former secretary-general.

RAY SUAREZ: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the head of international effort in Syria, U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan in Washington today.

KOFI ANNAN, former U.N. secretary general: And everyone is looking for a solution. Some say the plan may be dead. Is the problem the plan or the problem is implementation? So, all these questions are now being discussed, and we are also exploring how we can work with other governments in the region and around the world to achieve our goals.

RAY SUAREZ: But those injured in the conflict, like this woman, who had both legs amputated, have grown impatient with the international response.

UMM ABDO, Syrian refugee (through translator): I think the United Nations is much too talkative. There is no implementation. Too many people have been killed.

RAY SUAREZ: Still, residents across Syria took the streets in protest after Friday prayers, many hoping the regime of Bashar al-Assad will soon come to an end.