UN observer at scene of Houla massacre 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN - Syrian authorities on Monday blamed Islamist militants for the
massacre of 108 men, women and children in the town of Houla and denied
UN and witness accounts that army tanks were in the area at the time.
a letter to the UN Security Council published by state media, the
Foreign Ministry said the Syrian army had clashed with hundreds of armed
men who it said committed Friday's massacre. The ministry said the
killers used knives, which it called a "signature" of Islamist militant
"Not a single tank entered the region and the Syrian
army was in a state of self-defense using the utmost degree of self
control and appropriate response, and anything other than this is pure
lies," the ministry's letter said.
"The terrorist armed groups
... entered with the purpose of killing and the best proof of that is
the killing by knives, which is the signature of terrorist groups who
massacre according to the Islamist way."
It said three Syrian soldiers were killed and 16 wounded.
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a letter to the Security
Council on Sunday that UN observers who visited the site after the
massacre "saw artillery and tank shells and as well as fresh tank
tracks", adding that many buildings had been destroyed by heavy weapons.
and opposition activists said Assad's forces, the only side with
artillery and tanks during the 14-month-old uprising against his rule,
carried out the massacre of the Sunni Muslim civilians. They said the
108 were mostly killed by bullets and knives but that at least 15 also
died from shelling.
Houla is mostly populated by Sunni Muslims -
from Syria's majority community which has led the revolt - while many of
the surrounding villages are dominated by Alawites, the offshoot of
Shi'ite Islam that provides most of Assad's ruling cadre.