5 May 2013

Syrian government forces accused of massacre

7:06 am on 5 May 2013

Activists in Syria say they've documented the killing scores of people in Sunni Muslim areas in the northwest of the country.

Hundreds of Sunnis have fled coastal areas where the activists accuse government forces of a campaign of sectarian cleansing, the BBC reports.

Activists say 77 people died in the coastal city of Baniyas a day after 72 were killed at the nearby village of al-Bayda.

Unverified mobile phone footage posted on the internet shows the bodies of women and children.

Local activist and opposition groups have accused the government of launching a campaign of sectarian cleansing, but the government said it had fought back "terrorist groups" and restored peace and security to the area.

Hundreds of families are reported to have fled Baniyas southwards towards the city of Tartus, but activists say they have been blocked from taking shelter there.

The pro-government militia known as the shabbiha are widely reported to be involved in the operation.