Henry Meyer & Stepan Kravchenko – Bloomberg June 2, 2012
Syria’s ambassador to Russia said terrorists targeted families that refused to follow their orders during the massacre of more than 100 people, including dozens of children, in Houla last week.
“These families were killed because they refused to cooperate with these terrorist groups,” Riad Haddad said in an interview at the Syrian embassy in Moscow yesterday. “When the parliamentary elections were held in Syria, these terrorist groups went to villages and towns and stopped people from voting and demanded candidates withdraw.”
The killings in Houla led to new calls for Russia to stop supplying arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he doesn’t support either side in the Syrian conflict. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for a probe into the massacre, which it said was carried out by “pro-regime elements” and government forces.
Among the dead in Houla was the family of a lawmaker who refused to withdraw his name from the parliamentary vote, Haddad said. Several hundred militants carried out the killings in Houla, General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, who heads the Syrian investigation into the killings, said May 31.
The rebel attack on Houla came after they fired two anti- tank missiles at Syrian security forces gathering outside the city, killing 31 troops, Haddad said. Among the civilian casualties in Houla were three families from nearby Shomaliya, whom the rebels killed there, he said, citing his government’s preliminary investigation.
Syria has found evidence that fighters from Libya and Tunisia with ties to al-Qaeda are “already among the rebels,” Haddad said, adding that some of the massacre was filmed. “The main aim is to cause failure of the Annan plan and to provoke foreign military interference.”
Putin, speaking at a press conference in Paris yesterday, said additional pressure on Assad’s government risks radicalizing the country. He called for more time to allow UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan to work.
“We want to achieve the situation where the violence ends and there won’t be large-scale civil war,” Putin said.