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Rights group tracks cold-blooded killing in Syria

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian security forces have summarily executed over 100 civilians and wounded or captured opposition fighters in recent attacks on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday.

It documents more than a dozen incidents involving at least 101 victims since late 2011, many of them in March 2012, in which Syrians were killed in cold blood by security forces and pro-government militiamen.

'In a desperate attempt to crush the uprising, Syrian forces have executed people in cold blood, civilians and opposition fighters alike,' said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

'They are doing it in broad daylight and in front of witnesses, evidently not concerned about any accountability for their crimes.'

Human Rights Watch said the U.N. Security Council should ensure that any U.N. mission mandated to supervise the six-point peace plan brokered by the U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan 'would be in a position to document such crimes.'

But with less than 24 hours to go before the first deadline for implementation of the ceasefire plan, there was little sign of any let-up in the fighting in Syria that would permit the deployment of a small, unarmed UN observer mission.

The exact number of victims of the extrajudicial executions is impossible to verify given the difficulties of accessing and evaluating the information from Syria. But Human Rights Watch documented at least 12 cases of executions in Idlib and Homs governorates, the 25-page report says.

'Syrian security forces will stop the executions only if they sense that accountability is inevitable,' Solvang said. 'It is up to the Security Council to send this message.'

Thirteen bodies were found dumped on the street in the Syrian city of Homs on Saturday with gunshots to the head and blood drenching the pavement, a video by activists showed.

Locals said it was a massacre by supporters of Assad.

The victims, all young or middle-aged men, had their hands tied behind their back. Some were blindfolded.

'Some of them had traces of torture so they may have been detainees. There were no identity papers on the bodies, so we are trying to find out who they are,' said Saleem Qabbani, from the grassroots Local Coordination Committees opposition group.

Homs has also been mired in sectarian violence in recent months, breeding a climate of fear and hatred between Sunni Muslims, Syria's majority population and the backbone of the revolt, and minority Alawites, the Shi'ite-rooted sect to which Assad and many in the ruling elite belong

(Reporting By Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

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Reuters

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