Thirty-four Syrians abducted by pro-regime “shabiha” militiamen on Monday were found dead in the flashpoint central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The Britain-based watchdog said an activist on the ground reported seeing “the bodies of 34 civilians, in a square in the pro-regime neighbourhood of Al-Zahra, who had been abducted by the shabiha on Monday.”
The civilians, it said, had been seized from several “anti-regime neighbourhoods” in Homs, which has been targeted by a brutal crackdown on almost nine months of anti-regime dissent.
The Observatory also reported the so-called “shabiha” abducted on Monday a bus driver and his 13 passengers in Homs province.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have laid siege to Homs for the past two months.
Seven people were reported killed in the city and province on Monday by gunfire from the security forces, the Observatory said, after a bloody weekend that saw 63 people dead, at least half of them in Homs.
Elsewhere on Monday, mutinous soldiers killed four members of the security forces, including an officer, at the southern protest hub of Dael in Daraa province, the Observatory said.
A regime truck was also set ablaze during Monday’s attack, the Observatory said, adding hundreds of Syrian forces deployed in Dael, where raids and arrests were underway.
Daraa is the cradle of the protests which erupted in mid-March in Syria, one of the most autocratic Arab nations. UN estimates say more than 4,000 people have been killed across the country in the government crackdown.
The Observatory also accused security forces of arresting 18 students on Monday, eight of them for insulting the president.
The students in Jabla, in western Syria, were “accused of insulting President Assad,” it said, adding the allegations were made by “informants” at the school.
The other 10 were arrested near Damascus for joining an anti-regime protest in the district of Harasta, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression said the authorities arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi at the border with Jordan as she headed to Amman on Sunday to represent them at a workshop on press freedom.
Also on Monday, the Observatory reported that pro-regime students and security forces harassed university students in the coastal city of Latakia.
The watchdog also said 30 students from Daraa studying at Latakia’s Tishrin University were detained, and another 60 were expelled.
It did not say when the arrests occurred but stressed “that these students were threatened by their peers, subjected to pressure, abuse and insults over sectarian loyalties.”
The latest reports of bloodshed and arrests come as the foreign ministry said it has “responded positively” to a request by the Arab League to allow in observers as part of a peace plan to end the unrest.
Convicted Cardinal Pell’s fate hangs on appeal
An Australian court will rule on George Pell's appeal against child sex abuse charges Wednesday, when the convicted cardinal could walk free or begin a new round in his protracted legal fight.
Once the Vatican's third-ranking official, 78-year-old Pell was sentenced this year to six years in jail for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.
After more than two months of deliberations, a three-judge appeals panel will hand down their decision.
Pell is the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse, making his case and Wednesday's ruling a touchstone moment for believers and victims groups around the world.
#PrayForAmazonia goes viral as Twitter users call attention to ‘international emergency’ of fires devastating Brazil’s rainforest
"The Amazon rainforest has been burning for three weeks! We are on the verge of losing it completely if the fire isn't put out. The loss of trees, the loss of biodiversity is what is accelerating climate change."
The hashtag #PrayForAmazonia went viral on Tuesday as social media users attempted to draw the world's attention to the Amazon rainforest, which has been devastated for weeks by fires so intense they can be seen from space.
French model tycoon at heart of Epstein scandal accusations
A formerly powerful French modeling tycoon has emerged as a key figure in the scandal surrounding US billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in jail while facing charges of sexually trafficking minors.
Jean-Luc Brunel, regarded as a close friend and ally of the disgraced US financier, has been accused in court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, as well as of rape. He has in the past unequivocally denied the accusations.
The model scout, an influential figure in the industry, has always been a low-profile figure and like some other former Epstein allies vanished after the financier was charged in early July.