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UN chief condemns Syria killings

UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) - UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon on Saturday strongly condemned an incident of massive killings in a village in Syria, according to a statement released by his spokesperson here.

"The Secretary-general and the (UN-Arab League) Joint Special Envoy (for Syria Kofi Annan) condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs," said the statement, issued on behalf of Ban and Annan.

It was reported that more than 92 people were killed in the incident. Syrian opposition groups said it was caused by an artillery barrage by government forces on Friday evening. However, Syria's state media blamed the massacre on "armed terrorist groups. "

The UN statement said, without elaborating, that observers from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria had viewed the bodies of the dead and confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighborhood.

In the statement, Ban called the killings an "appalling and brutal crime," adding that "those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account."

The UN chief also expressed his profound sympathy to the families of the victims and to the wounded, and underscored his grave concern about the lack of protection for civilians in Syria.

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The statement reiterated that all violence in all forms in Syria must cease.

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