World News

Syrian Execution Images Overshadow Summit; US 'Horrified'



Images of Syrian rebels executing seven government soldiers displayed the violence of the Syrian civil war Thursday as world leaders met for summit talks in Russia, with no sign they have reconciled their differences over that Middle East conflict.

The U.S. State Department said it was "horrified" by video and photographic images published by The New York Times. The influential newspaper identified the leader of the execution squad and reported he ordered the videotaping months ago to drum up support for the rebel cause.

There was no official comment on the grisly images in St. Petersburg, where the Group of 20 nations met for their annual economic summit. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are at odds over how to respond to the carnage in Syria, greeted each other as the summit began, but there were no reported private contacts between them.

At the State Department in Washington, spokeswoman Jan Psaki condemned summary executions by any party to the Syrian conflict. She did not dispute the newspaper account that said the killings documented executions carried out in April, but said U.S. authorities are seeking more information.

The video showed prisoners crouching in front of their captors. They were stripped to the waist and their backs were covered with red welts.

The seven pressed their faces into the dirt as the rebel commander recited what was described as a revolutionary verse. About 24 gunshots followed, and the victims' bodies were thrown into a well.

In St. Petersburg, President Obama is seeking support for military strikes against Syria's government for its widely reported use of chemical weapons last month .



Mr. Putin supports the Syrian government's contrary account of the poison-gas attacks near Damascus that are said to have killed more than 1,400 people. The Assad regime and its supporters in the Kremlin contend it was rebels who used illegal chemical weapons, firing at government troops.

The Russian president has warned that military strikes such as those Mr. Obama is proposing would be unacceptable "aggression" against Syria if they are not authorized by the United Nations. Russia has blocked previous efforts by the Security Council to act against Syria for its tactics in the civil war, which is now in its third year. But Mr. Putin says he would support a strike if there was "convincing" proof that Damascus used chemical weapons.

Russia and China both have cast vetoes at the Security Council to defeat Western efforts to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government responsible for the wholesale slaughter of civilians caught up in the conflict.

At the U.N., where American officials hosted briefings on the events in Syria, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia is holding the world body hostage and shirking its international responsibilities.



"There is nothing in the pattern of our interactions with our colleagues in the Security Council, our Russian colleagues, that would give us any reason to be optimistic. And, indeed, we have seen nothing in President Putin's comments that suggests there is an available path forward at the Security Council."



Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate could begin debate next week on a measure calling for limited military strikes on Syria. A key Senate panel on Wednesday approved the draft resolution, which also rules out deploying U.S. ground troops to the country.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs