Rebels accused of abuses in Syria
Syria's armed opposition is carrying out serious human rights abuses, including the kidnapping, torture and execution of security force members and government supporters, a rights group said yesterday.
And suffering the latest setback in their bid to oust President Bashar al-Assad, rebel fighters were forced to flee the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor yesterday in the face of a fierce army assault.
The New York-based watchdog said that while the one-year revolt in Syria had started as a largely peaceful uprising, it had transformed into an armed insurgency, especially since early February, when the government launched large-scale attacks against opposition strongholds throughout the country.
The rights group said it had documented cases of kidnappings, torture and executions by opposition groups, often with a sectarian motive.
Syria's population of 23 million is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while the ruling Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, form the minority.
According to HRW, members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors and sympathisers, were also kidnapping soldiers as well Iranian nationals, some of them civilians.
Meanwhile security was tightened in Damascus yesterday after a spate of deadly clashes, activists said, as the UN Security Council prepared to thrash out a statement warning Syria over its crackdown on dissent.
Fresh clashes broke out in the capital while security forces killed at least 16 civilians in violence across the country, according to monitors and activists.
Despite recent successes, Assad still faces significant outside pressure. Ally Russia signaled yesterday it would support a UN statement backing a mission by envoy Kofi Annan to end the bloodshed so long as there was no ultimatums.
In addition, Moscow joined calls for both the army and rebels to grant daily ceasefires that would enable humanitarian missions to areas of Syria worst hit by the fighting.