Syrian children killed in al-Raqqa shellings

Arab World Materials 26 December 2012 16:47 (UTC +04:00)
Syrian children killed in al-Raqqa shellings
Syrian children killed in al-Raqqa shellings

At least 20 people, including eight children, have been killed after Syrian army tanks shelled a village in the northern province of al-Raqqa, an activist group has said Al Jazeera reported.

Dozens of other civilians were also injured by the government's attacks in the village of Qahtania on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

"At least 20 people, among them eight children and three women, were killed in shelling by regime forces of farmlands in Kahtaniyeh village, west of the city of Raqqa," the UK-based group said.

Amateur video posted online by activists and distributed by the Observatory showed several bloodied bodies, including at least one of a child, laid out on blankets in a house.

"Dozens of people have been injured in farmlands of Kahtaniyeh, among them a whole family," according to activists in al-Raqqa.

Al-Raqqa has seen an escalation of violence in recent months after rebels have launched an assault to oust regime forces from several areas of the province, strategically located on the Turkish border.

Rami Abdel Rahman, The Observatory's head, said the casualties were caused by tank fire and that the victims were from farming families.

Military police chief 'defects'

"Just to be clear, there are no Al-Nusra Front jihadists or any other well-organised rebel groups there. The victims were just farmers," Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.

In a separate development, the head of Syria's military police has reportedly defected to the opposition, becoming one of the country's most senior security officials to back the 21-month-old uprising.

Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shallal appeared in a video aired late on Tuesday on al-Arabiya, a pan-Arab TV station, saying that he is joining "the people's revolution".

Al-Shallal said that the army deviated from its mission of protecting the nation and became "a gang for killing and destruction".

He is the latest of string of high-level military officials who have defected and accused the government of war crimes in its bid to crush the uprising.