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Diplomats expelled after massacre

Britain has ordered Syria's charge d'affaires to leave the country within seven days as part of a co-ordinated global response to a massacre of 108 people in Houla.

The United Nations said most of the victims last week were shot at close range, some of them women, children and entire families gunned down in their own homes.

Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed horror at the events and alongside similar action by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United States, Canada and Australia, ordered three diplomats, including the charge d'affaires, out of the country.

Mr Hague said: "All our efforts are going into supporting the Annan plan to try and bring about a peaceful transition and increasing the pressure on the Assad regime to implement that plan.

"These expulsions express our horror at the behaviour of the regime and increase international pressure to implement the commitments they have entered into."

The United Nations has been looking into Friday's massacre in a bid to establish exactly what happened.

A report from the human rights office indicated most of the dead were killed execution-style, with fewer than 20 people killed by regime shelling. The UN reported witnesses blaming the house-to-house killings on pro-government thugs known as shabiha, who reportedly operate as hired muscle for the regime.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said: "What is very clear is this was an absolutely abominable event that took place in Houla, and at least a substantial part of it was summary executions of civilians, women and children.

"At this point, it looks like entire families were shot in their houses."

The Syrian regime has denied taking part in the massacre, instead blaming the killings on armed terrorists.


From Belfast Telegraph