Syria: Smell Of Death At 'Massacre' Village

Tim Marshall, foreign affairs editor, in Mazraat al Qubeir
Syria: Smell Of Death At 'Massacre' Village

After more than two days, a United Nations convoy has managed to reach the Syrian hamlet where an alleged massacre took place.

Opposition activists say 78 people were murdered in Mazraat al Qubeir - and although these claims have not been verified, it is clear that something ghastly has taken place.

The village is in a terrible state - there are charred, burnt-out buildings covered in bullet holes and dead animals in the street.

In one house, we found blood splashed up against the walls, amid blood-soaked blankets and children's clothes and toys.

In another, there was unidentifiable carbonised debris - which locals claim are human remains.

The hamlet is uninhabitable now.

The smell of death lingers, although it is not clear if this is from animals or people.

Those villagers brave enough to speak to us were desperate to tell their stories - but also not to be identified.

One man told me the army shelled the buildings before pro-government militia went house-to-house and killed dozens of people, including children.

Others said the army made them remove the dead from buildings and bury them, although this cannot be proved.

The Syrian government denies any involvement in the crime.

The UN's monitors fanned out across the hamlet, gathering evidence.

Their technical experts studied the charred remains in an attempt to identify whether or not they are human.

Human rights experts spoke to eyewitnesses about the exact times and names of people supposedly killed.

All of this will go into the monitors' report, although it is likely to be inconclusive.

The length of time since the alleged massacre took place has provided ample time for any evidence to be cleared away.

And, for every eyewitness that blames the pro-government militia, there is another accusing rebel forces.

As for hard proof of what happened in this hamlet on Wednesday, I do not think we will ever get it.