The Syrian government said Thursday its preliminary investigation showed that anti-government forces carried out the massacre last week in Houla to provoke foreign military intervention.
Brig. Gen. Qassem Jamal Suleiman, head of the investigation committee formed by the government, said the victims were families "who refused to oppose the government and were at odds with the armed groups," Reuters reported.
He said that before the massacre, 600 to 800 armed men attacked posts of the security forces in the area while armed men from outside Houla murdered the families, adding that many of the victims were relatives of a member of parliament.
"The aim is to bring foreign military intervention against the country in any form and way," he told reporters at a televised news conference in Damascus.
The government's Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Suleiman as saying the attack was meant to target relatives of a member of parliament "before the events ran contrary to the plan and the massacre extended to slaughter other families." Government forces had not entered the area where the massacre occurred, according to the investigation.
"There are people in dark rooms working night and day to target Syria ... and the way to do it is to ignite civil strife," the Associated Press quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi as saying at the news conference. "They will not succeed."
Though Syrian authorities said they drew their conclusions from witnesses, others who saw the attacks have told Western media and human rights groups that armed gangs loyal to Assad perpetrated the attacks. The U.N. peacekeeping chief said this week that the government was definitely responsible for some of the killings and there was strong suspicions that the rest were the work of allied militias.
"Syria regime says the opposition is responsible for the massacre in Houla. Another blatant lie," United States Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Last Friday's massacre in Houla, in which 108 people were killed, was condemned around the world. Western powers expelled Syrian diplomats and Syrian rebels, aiming to topple President Bashar al-Assad, urged Kofi Annan to declare his seven-week-old ceasefire plan a failure.
But Makdissi said Syria wanted the peace plan to succeed in ending the violence so the 14-month-old crisis could be resolved through political dialogue.
He also called on opposition groups that reject foreign intervention to come to Syria for talks with the government.
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