Syrian activist video shows aftermath of bombing at a mosque; at least 11 dead

The Associated Press

This photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man carrying a wounded child following a Syrian government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Syrian government helicopters and warplanes unleashed a wave of airstrikes on more than a dozen opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, firing missiles and dropping crude barrel bombs in a ferocious attack that killed at least 36 people, including children, activists said. (AP Photo/Aleppo Media Center, AMC)

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By DIAA HADID, Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — Men pull a girl from the rubble and haul her onto a dirty sheet of plastic, while another child, coated in white dust save for a red streak of blood from his nose, lies with his crushed leg dangling off a gurney — the grisly aftermath from the dropping of a crude "barrel bomb" by Syrian forces on the city of Aleppo.

The bombing — one of at least seven such attacks in Aleppo on Tuesday — struck a mosque that was being used as a school, killing at least 11 people, activists said. A video supplied by activists contained scenes of the carnage.

It was the latest example of the heightened use of barrel bombs, devices packed with fuel, explosives and scrap metal that are hurled from helicopters, often indiscriminately.

Since Thursday, around 80 people have been killed by barrel bombs used by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces to try to dislodge rebels from Aleppo, according to figures provided by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground.

The video uploaded from the rebel-held Masaken Hanano district showed the aftermath of the explosion at or near the Uthman Bin Affan mosque, where adults were teaching children the Quran, said activist Hassoun Abu Faisal of the Aleppo Media Center.

The video, excerpts of which are at http://apne.ws/1c0t9yt , was consistent with what reporting by The Associated Press found.

A cameraman films from inside a vehicle as it speeds toward a place where dust is drifting into a clear blue sky. The camera swivels to men and boys running around a building that has been torn in half by an explosion.

"Are there martyrs?" the narrator asks. His camera focuses on a lump of red flesh in a vehicle.

It is the beginning of a grim litany of death, as seen from the jerking camera.

A child, his legs missing, lies on the ground, partially covered by a blanket.

"Are there anybody's children here?" cries one man.

"Bashar, you lowlife!" cries another, referring to the Syrian ruler, raising his hands angrily to the sky. Another man shakes a blackened body inside a vehicle.

A man carries a lifeless boy, lifting him partly by his clothes, and leaves him on the sidewalk near two other mangled corpses. An older man with a bloodied face stumbles toward the child, weeping, "Oh, God, your grace, oh, God."

The cameraman also captures scenes of the boy with the crushed leg and the girl pulled from the ruins.

The Observatory said at least five of the dead in Masaken Hanano were children.

The use of barrel bombs across Syria has been widely condemned by human rights groups because of the weapons' indiscriminate nature. They have been a key part of a government strategy to wrest back parts of Aleppo seized by rebels in mid-2012.

Far from the battlegrounds in Syria, Assad's chief ally, Russia, expressed confidence that the government would return to the U.N.-hosted peace talks in Geneva that began in January after three years of war.

"We have no doubts that the government representatives will take place in a second round of talks between the Syrian sides in Geneva," Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian deputy foreign minister and Moscow's special envoy to the Middle East, said in comments carried on Russian news agencies.

Assad's government has not committed to attending the next round of talks, expected on Feb. 10.

"We hope that both sides will continue a patient, constructive discussion," Bogdanov said.

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Associated Press writers Laura Mills in Moscow and Ryan Lucas in Beirut contributed to this report.

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