Syrian Carnage Continues Unabated

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For the fifth successive day, government troops continued the onslaught in the central Syrian city of Homs Wednesday.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad targeted activists and civilians alike with rockets and mortar shells, eyewitnesses and human rights groups reported.

One activist told Voice of America that troops were bombing homes, schools and mosques.

"They surrounded the area by snipers and they're shooting at everything that moves, even the cats," he said.

Another activist, Mohammad Hassan, communicating by satellite phone, told Reuters that 67 people had been killed since midnight.

"Mortar and rocket fires have subsided, but heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns are still strong," Hassan said. "Tanks are in main thoroughfares in the city and appear posed to push deep into residential areas."

Rami Abdelraham, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Assad's troops broke into three homes overnight, murdering everyone inside.

"The shabbiha [Assad's militiamen] broke into three houses overnight and slaughtered a family of five -- the father, wife and their three children; a family of seven in another house and a [family] of eight in a third," Abdelraham said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Larov met with Assad in Damascus. Afterward, Larov told Russian state media Assad is "completely committed" to stopping violence in his country.

Larov said Assad agreed to support expanded monitoring by the Arab League and set a date for a referendum to draft a new constitution. He also said Assad would delegate talks with the opposition to Syria's vice president.

The Arab League suspended its monitoring mission on Jan. 28 because of the ongoing violence. They took their plan to the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China vetoed the Security Council resolution against Syria. 

The Obama administration dismissed Syria's reform pledges, saying Assad has been promising an end to violence for months.

Several European countries, including France, Italy, and Spain, recalled their ambassadors from Damascus on Tuesday and six Gulf Cooperation Council states are also withdrawing their ambassadors and expelling Syrian diplomats from their countries.

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