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Revealed: Syria”s steroid-mad “Ghost” killers who keep Assad in power by slaughtering women and childrenThey wield AK-47s and machetes to carry out the government”s dirty workMassacre of 108 in Houla blamed on deadly death squadSyrian troops today attacking rebel strongholds with helicopter gunships
Activists say violence has claimed lives of more than 13,000 people
These are the “Ghost” killer thugs pumped up on steroids who are proving key to keeping Syria”s brutal President Bashar Assad in power.
Covered in tattoos of images of their leader, they are blamed for roaming the nation massacring children and women by slitting their throats or shooting them at point-blank range.
Wielding AK-47s and machetes, they are said to carry out the government”s dirty work so officials can claim the rampages are not being sponsored by the state.
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Pumped up: Areen Al Assad, with a tattoo of Bashar Assad on his bicep, is said to be one of the “Ghost” killers roaming Syria
Meat-head: Known as the “Shabiha”, they wear combat trousers and black t-shirts and are paid the massive sum of 130 per day
Known as the “Shabiha”, translating to “Ghosts”, they wear combat trousers and black t-shirts and are paid the massive sum of 130 per day.
Their modus operandi sees them swarm in to towns after the army has stopped shelling. A source said: “Their mission is to terrorise the civilian population and conduct ethnic cleansing.”
A massacre of 108 civilians in Houla two weeks ago, including 49 children, has been blamed on the group who fanatically follow the Muslim Alawite sect.
They are also reported to have shot dead 12 workers in Qusayr and 78 villagers in Qubair last week.
Messing about: The “Ghosts” modus operandi sees them swarm in to towns after the army has stopped shelling
Muscle man: Emergence of the death squad pictures comes after William Hague said yesterday he may have to send troops to Syria if the country spirals into a Bosnian-style civil war
Dr Mousab Azzawi, who runs the Syrian Network for Human Rights from London but had treated some of the Shabihain Latakia, said recently: “They were like monsters.
“Theyhad huge muscles, and big bellies and beards. They took steroids to pump up their bodies. I had to talk to them like children as they like people with low intelligence.
“SYRIA COULD TRAIN ITS CHEMICAL WEAPONS ON ISRAEL”
Syria”s large chemical weapons stocks could be trained on Israel, the latter”s deputy military chief has warned.
According to Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, Syria has the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world.
If the Syrians had the chance, he said, they would “treat us the same way they treat their own people”.
Syria has not declared its chemical weapons stocks so their exact size is not known.
Among other things, Israel is worried that such weapons could fall into the hands of anti-Israel militants should the Syrian regime crumble.
Israeli radio stations and newspapers carried Naveh”s remarks today.
He delivered them Sunday night at a ceremony in Jerusalem commemorating fallen soldiers.
Syrian activists estimate more than 13,000 people have died since an uprising against the Syrian regime erupted 15 months ago, drawing a bloody crackdown.
Israel has been watching the carnage in neighboring Syria with increasing concern. The two countries have fought major wars and multiple attempts to reach a peace deal failed.
Syria has strong ties to Iran, Israel”s most fearsome enemy, and to Palestinian and Lebanese militants that have warred with Israel.
“That is what makes them so terrifying — the combination of strength and blind allegiance to the regime.”
Emergence of the death squad pictures comes after William Hague said yesterday he may have to send troops to Syria if the country spirals into a Bosnian-style civil war.
TheForeign Secretary said Britain would have to “greatly increase our support for the opposition” if the current United Nations plan for a ceasefire fails, as his office now fears.
Mr Hague repeatedly refused to rule out military action yesterday if Syria descends into “terrible” sectarian violence.
And he twice compared the violence raging in the Arab state to the conflict in Bosnia, where 12,000 British soldiers were eventually sent, rather than Libya, where the Government resisted sending in ground troops.
Mr Hague told the BBC: “The reason I don’t rule things out is because we really don”t know now how this situation is going to develop or how terrible it is going to become.
“Increasingly the analogy is not with Libya last year but with Bosnia in the 1990s.
“We are on the edge of that kind of sectarian murder on a large scale. So who knows what may be required from the international community to try to deal with that, if it gets going in that way.”
As violence continued to rage yesterday, claiming at least 38 lives, Mr Hague reiterated his message on Sky News.
He said Syria is now “on the edge of a sectarian conflict in which neighbouring villages are attacking and killing each other so I don’t think we can rule anything out”.
The Foreign Secretary”s words will fuel concerns that Britain risks being sucked into another Middle East war with potentially devastating political and humanitarian consequences.
Enforcers: Film footage shows the “Ghosts” walking out and about
Action man: Pictured with guns, the Ghost poses for this photograph
But some diplomats believe the West will be compelled to act if the situation deteriorates and risks dragging in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey.
Security sources said one scenario under discussion would see troops deploy to protect aid convoys entering Syria, a task Western soldiers also carried out in the early years of the Bosnian war.
Mr Hague gave credence to that theory by stressing the problems of providing aid to Syria yesterday.
“One of the great difficulties here is getting aid to them where fighting is going on and where the regime doesn’t provide access,” he said.
The UK has already provided 8.5million of medical supplies and emergency aid via international agencies.
Battered: The Ghosts filmed beating activists
Violence: A massacre of 108 civilians in Houla two weeks ago, including 49 children, has been blamed on the group who fanatically follow the Muslim Alawite sect
Mr Hague said he “welcomed in principle” a Russian proposal for an international conference on Syria, but warned it must “lead to a change and not just buy time for the regime to kill more people”.
He said it would be hard to see how Iran could attend the conference – one of Russia”s demands – as it had already given Syria technical support and advised the regime on how to suppress protests.
Instead, he said the way forward was to adopt the peace plan of former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Most diplomats, however, believe that plan is dead in the water, and the Foreign Secretary conceded: ‘Every other solution to the Syrian crisis involves a lot more death.’
Today Syrian troops attacked a rebel-held town in the centre of the country with helicopter gunships and shelled other restive areas across the country, activists said.
The aerial assault targeted the strategic river crossing town of Rastan that has resisted repeated government offensives for months, they added.
It is part of an escalation of violence in recent weeks that comes despite an internationally-brokered cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect on April 12 but never took hold.
Destruction: Syrians sit next to a damaged house at the northern town of Ariha, on the outskirts of Idlib, yesterday
Patrol: Syrian troops deployed in Duma, in a suburb of Damascus
“The regime is now using helicopters more after its ground troops suffered major losses,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “Dozens of vehicles have been destroyed or damaged since the end of May.”
Syria”s Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi recently said rebels are now using sophisticated anti-tank missiles. Videos posted by activists over the past week have shown many destroyed tanks and armored personnel carriers.
The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees also reported government shelling in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, the southern region of Daraa, the northern province of Aleppo, and suburbs of the capital Damascus and Deir el-Zour in the east.
The Observatory reported the deaths of four civilians and an army defector in shelling in the area of Ashara in Deir el-Zour, and said another eight unidentified bodies had been discovered nearby. It reported three dead in the Hama shelling.
In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Iran on Wednesday. Russia and Iran are Syrian President Bashar Assad”s strongest allies. Moscow and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened possible sanctions against Syria.
The ministry said in a statement that Russia is not playing the role of advocate for certain Middle East regimes.
“We are speaking for the strict observance of the norms and principles of international law in the interest of supporting regional stability and security in the Near and Middle East and North Africa,” it said.
Syrian activists say the violence has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said on the killings of children in Syria: “How many more children need to die
“Repeated calls for the protection of children by all parties in Syria have not yielded positive action. But we must voice again our outrage when seeing the murder of innocents, especially children and women, as reportedly the case in Al-Qubair village in Hama.
“UNICEF appeals once more: spare and protect the children who are in no way responsible for the violence and must not be its victims.”