Syria Feb. 6, 2012 (Reuters)
Anti-Assad regime demonstrators attend funeral near northern province of Idlib, Feb. 6, 2012. Photo by Reuters
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Syrian troops and militiamen loyal to President Bashar Assad chased, captured and then shot dead 27 young men in three northern villages, an opposition activists' group said on Wednesday.

The men, all civilians, were mostly shot in the head or chest on Tuesday in their homes or in streets in the villages of Idita, Iblin and Balshon in Idlib province near the border with Turkey, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

"Military forces chased civilians in these villages, arrested them and killed them without hesitation. They concentrated on male youths and whoever did not manage to escape was to be killed," the organization said in a statement.

"Responsibility for this massacre lies with the general commander of the military and armed forces, Bashar Assad," the statement said, adding that only one youth survived the shootings.

Several YouTube videos taken by local activists in Idlib, which could not be independently confirmed, showed bodies of young men with bullet wounds lying in streets and in houses.

One video shows the body of three youths, one visibly shot in the chest, on the floor of a house in Balshon.

"This is martyr Hassan Abdel Qadi al-Saeed, his brother Hussein and (their relative) Bashir Mohammad al-Saeed. They were liquidated by Assad's forces in the Feb. 21 massacre," a voice of a man showing the bodies says, with the sound of women wailing in the background.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the United States appeared to open the door to eventually arming Syria's opposition, saying that if a political solution to the crisis was impossible it might have to consider other options.

The comments, made by officials at both the White House and the U.S. State Department marked a shift in emphasis by Washington, which so far has stressed a policy of not arming the opposition and has said little about alternatives.

In Syria on Tuesday, activists said President Bashar Assad's forces killed more than 60 people in attacks on villages and an artillery barrage on the restive city of Homs.

The Red Cross called for daily ceasefires to allow in urgently needed aid.

"We still believe that a political solution is what's needed in Syria," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"We don't want to take actions that would contribute to the further militarization of Syria, because that could take the country down a dangerous path. But we don't rule out additional measures."

Asked if the United States was shifting its stance on arming the rebels, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington did not want to see the violence increase and was concentrating on political efforts to halt the bloodshed.