Rebel fighters have shot down a Syrian army helicopter over Damascus, according to local residents – as the opposition claimed more than 300 people had been massacred in a town southwest of the capital.
Footage posted on the internet showing the burning helicopter falling from the sky and state TV acknowledged that a military helicopter had come down in the Qaboon neighbourhood.
Amer al Sadeq from the Syrian Revolution Union said the helicopter had been hovering over the eastern part of the city before it was downed.
“We could hear, as the helicopter was flying over, many fire shots. A few minutes later, we could hear a huge explosion in the middle of many explosions that were happening,” he told Sky News, speaking from Damascus.
“It seems that the Free Syrian Army battalions in the eastern part of the city were using low-calibre machineguns.
“It is really good news for us to see one of the heavy machines used against us, used against civilians in the bombing of Syrian cities, being dropped down – and on live TV.”
Fierce fighting is reportedly taking place in the east of Damascus with heavy explosions were heard throughout the morning.
Omar al-Qabooni, a spokesman for the Badr Batallion of the Free Syrian Army told AFP the shooting down of the helicopter was “revenge for the Daraya massacre”.
He claimed the rebels had found the body of the pilot after the burning aircraft crashed to the ground.
In the reported massacre in Daraya, it had initially been thought that about 200 people, including woman and children, were killed as President Bashar al Assad’s forces seized the town from rebel control several days ago.
But the toll rose as more bodies were found in houses and basements, according to activists who said most of the victims had been killed “execution-style” by troops.
Pro-government television blamed terrorists for the attacks.
The official state news agency said: “Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town.”
Since his forces were accused of the bloody rampage, Mr Assad has slated what he calls “the foreign conspiracy” against his country.
Activists posted several videos on the internet showing rows of bloodied bodies wrapped in sheets.
Most of the dead appeared to be young men of fighting age, but at least one video showed several children who appeared to have been shot in the head.
The body of one toddler was soaked in blood.
The video footage and death toll were impossible to independently verify because of severe restrictions on media coverage of the conflict.
Most of the killings, according to activists, took place on Friday and Saturday. But the extent of the carnage only began to be revealed Sunday.
With a population of about 200,000, Daraya is a working class Sunni Muslim town part of Rural Damascus, or Reef Damascus, a province that includes the capital’s suburbs and farmland.
It has been a stronghold of support for the rebels fighting the government since the start of the uprising, posing a particularly grave threat to Mr Assad’s seat of power.
Troops backed by tanks stormed the town on Thursday after a siege that lasted several days during which no one was allowed to enter or leave, activists and residents said.
The discovery in Daraya comes as fresh reports emerge of shelling at Aleppo in the north as well as in the southern city of Deraa.
Fighter jets dropped bombs and fired missiles on rebel-held districts in the south of Aleppo, as residents fled.
Rebels say they control at least half the city with a population of 2.5 million, but their hold is fragile as long as Mr Assad’s forces can use their air power against fighters who are comparatively lightly armed.
Meanwhile, Sky News has been given rare access to a rebel prison where the Free Syrian Army is holding men accused of being shabiya – Mr Assad’s civilian spies.
Sky’s special correspondent Alex Crawford has been allowed to question the prisoners who admitted to torturing rebel protesters, killing them and raping them.
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Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/977469