Unidentified Gunmen: Syrian Regime, Rebels Trade Blame for Houla Massacre

Gunmen Slaughtered Civilians, But on Whose Behalf?

Last Friday’s massacre in Houla killed at least 108 civilians, and the initial rebel claims that the deaths were the result of military shelling have been disproven, as the vast majority of the deaths were execution-style gunfire from small arms. Witnesses are now saying that a group of hundreds of gunmen were responsible, mowing down civilians in the small Homs Province town.

But whose gunmen were they? The Syrian regime says that their investigation found that between 600 and 800 gunmen linked to an unknown terrorist organization were responsible for the killings, saying they started by attacking police and then began shooting civilians.

This is somewhat consistent with the early accounts of the massacre, which said that police in the city were engaged in a gun-battle with rebel forces and that the military was trapped on its base, coming under fire, while the fighting was going on.

The rebels for their part have penned a new version of the events, saying that there were gunmen, something never mentioned before, but that they were some government-affiliated militia. The US has endorsed the rebel version, whatever it happens to be at the time, but what really happened remains a mystery, likely to never be solved.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.