Survivors give details of one of Syria’s worst mass killings

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 28, 2013

Syrian village shares secrets of dawn killings, China’s on the hook for hacking, and Afghan police defectors kill colleagues. Today is Tuesday, May 28, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A Free Syrian Army fighter stands on the rubble of buildings damaged by what activists said were missiles fired by Syrian Air Force fighter jets loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Salqin city, Idlib governorate, May 28, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

Witnesses recount massacre horrors as Russia and EU clash over arming Syria. Nearly a month after pro-Assad forces killed hundreds of mostly Sunni men, women and children in some of the worst carnage in the history of the 26-month long Syrian conflict, a survivor described finding torched bodies and whole families dead in their homes:

A few steps from his home, somewhere near the main village square, Ahmad discovered his brother’s body. “He had been stripped of his clothes,” he said, reading from his own record of what he saw. He paused and composed himself. “He had been shot in the head, and the bullet left a gaping hole the size of a hand. His blood had been shed on the ground.” For almost 90 minutes, Ahmad described how he found torched bodies and evidence of mass killings: in one case 30 men, and in another, 20 women and children who had hidden in a small room.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 300 people were killed in Baida and Ras al-Nabaa. The coast is home to most of the country’s Alawites, the Muslim Shi’ite sect to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. Today Russia swept aside Western criticisms of plans to deliver air defense systems to Syria, calling the move a way to discourage “hotheads” from intervening. Russia is also unhappy about an EU arms embargo set to expire on August 1, which will create the possibility for governments to arm Syrian rebels. The Syrian opposition leadership, meanwhile, remains in shambles. Syria’s conflict has claimed more than 80,000 lives and has spilled across the Lebanese border.

Chinese hackers allegedly target U.S. weapons systems, Australian spy agency. Chinese hackers gained access to U.S. designs for more than two dozen major weapons systems, according to a Defense Science Board report published on Monday, as Australian media accused Chinese hackers of stealing blueprints for Australia’s new spy headquarters:

The espionage would give China knowledge that could be exploited in a conflict, such as the ability to knock out communications and corrupting data, the [Washington] Post said. It also could speed China’s development of its defense technology… The [Australian] ABC report said the Chinese hacking was part of a wave of cyber attacks against business and military targets in the close U.S. ally. It said the hackers also stole confidential information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which houses the overseas spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, and had targeted companies, including steel-manufacturer Bluescope Steel, and military and civilian communications manufacturer Codan Ltd.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the ABC report was inaccurate. China stated that the U.S. report was groundless, and responded to the Australian news report by saying China is “firmly opposed” to hacking. The accusations follow a Pentagon report released earlier this month finding Chinese hacking to be a serious concern for the U.S.

Bloody day bodes poorly for Afghan forces. Two Afghan police officers who had defected to the Taliban recently returned to the force. They then killed seven colleagues, according to an Afghan police chief:

The killings came during a particularly bloody 24 hours for Afghan forces, with another 16 soldiers, police and bodyguards killed in different attacks, underscoring concern about government forces as foreign troops prepare to leave. Kandahar Afghan National Police chief Abdul Raziq said the two police officers had defected to the Taliban months ago but returned several days ago asking to rejoin. They were accepted back. “As soon as the policemen fell asleep, the pair grabbed weapons and opened fire, killing all seven,” Raziq said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message. Taliban attacks have increased in recent weeks, raising concerns of instability once NATO-led forces leave the country by the end of next year.

Nota Bene: Demonstrators rally in Paris to protest France’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Standouts:

Church running out of wine - Shortages in Venezuela hit the Church’s supply. (BBC)

Reality TV - An Afghan police officer takes to the airwaves after being beaten by a powerful commander’s son. (The New York Times)

Return of the dead fish - Hundreds of thousands of dead fish float to the top of China’s rivers. (Quartz)

Step right up - Nepal hopes to draw tourists to Everest by installing a ladder to the mountain’s difficult-to-reach summit. (The Guardian)

26,000 missing - Mexico establishes a task force to search for thousands of Mexicans. (The Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

  • Drone crashes in southern Somalia, may have been shot down
  • Kenya hit by national blackout after power grid failure
  • Pakistan’s new government plans $5 billion debt issue to switch lights on
  • Austria says peacekeepers to stay in Golan for now
  • Nigerian army says it killed three Islamists in Boko Haram crackdown
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