Armed militias backing Syrian President Bashar Assad dumped the bodies of 34 dissident civilians in the flashpoint city of Homs on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday, with activists claiming an even higher death toll.
In a statement cited by the AFP news agency, the London-based organization said the militia dumped "the bodies of 34 civilians, in a square in the pro-regime neighborhood of Al-Zahra, who had been abducted by the shabiha on Monday."
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that the citizens were abducted from several "anti-regime neighborhoods" in Homs, areas which had been targeted by a violent crackdown of the months-long pro-democracy protest movement.
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced from Homs claiming that the death toll was in fact higher than that reported by the Observatory, with activists in the city saying more than 60 bodies were taken to several hospitals in Homs.
Circumstances of their deaths were not immediately clear but activists and residents in several neighborhoods reported a spate of kidnappings since Sunday, a tactic used in recent sectarian killings in the city which has been the hotbed of armed opposition to Assad.
Earlier Monday, Syria said it had conditionally approved an Arab League peace plan to end eight months of unrest which threatens to drag the country to civil war.
In a letter to the League by Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem, Syria rejected foreign interference and demanded the annulment of sanctions plus reinstatement in the regional bloc.
In Cairo, Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby said "the conditions contained new elements that we have not heard before". Arab foreign league ministers were studying the response.
Syria is facing Arab and international sanctions in response to its violent crackdown on protests against Assad. In the latest response to the sanctions, French oil major Total said it will stop production in Syria.
Syria meanwhile has retaliated against northern neighbor Turkey for the sanctions imposed by its former friend, imposing a tariff of 30 percent on its imports and prohibitive duties on fuel and freight. Turkey shrugged it off, saying "common sense" should tell Syria that its own people would suffer most.
In a display of muscle that could be intended to deter any idea of foreign military intervention in a crisis which has killed at least 4,000 people, the army staged an exercise with missiles, rockets, tanks and helicopters.
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