BEIRUT: Syria denied Tuesday that a mass grave had been found near the southern city of Daraa which the army entered last month to crush protests against President Bashar Assad.
“Reports of a mass grave in Daraa are completely untrue,” state television quoted the Interior Ministry as saying, adding they were part of a “campaign of incitement” against Syria.
Daraa residents said Monday villagers had pulled 13 bodies from a single grave discovered in farmland on the outskirts of the southern city.
They said the bodies included those of a 62-year-old man and four of his children, along with bodies of a woman and child. The rest of the bodies were unidentified men, they said.
A Syrian rights group, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, also reported a mass grave had been found near Daraa Monday morning. It said troops had surrounded the area to prevent people taking the bodies away.
Many international media organizations have been barred from Syria, making it difficult to verify accounts.
Daraa residents say dozens of civilians were killed during the military assault on the city’s old quarters after troops and tanks rolled into the city late last month.
Syrian and international rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 700 civilians across the country since protests first broke out in Daraa on March 18.
Authorities have blamed most of the violence on armed groups backed by Islamists and outside powers, who they say have killed more than 120 members of the security forces. They say the army went in to Daraa to restore order after appeals from residents.