Syrian Helicopter Bombs Refugee Camp Leaving Many Dead, Say Residents

Refugee Camp
Syrian refugee women stand outside their tents at a refugee camp in Nizip in Gaziantep province, near the Turkish-Syrian border March 17, 2014. Murad Sezer/Reuters

A Syrian army helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on a displaced persons camp in the northern province of Idlib, camp residents said on Wednesday, and video footage appeared to show charred and dismembered bodies.

Footage posted on YouTube showed corpses of women, children and burning tents while people scrambled to save the wounded. "It’s a massacre of refugees," a voice off camera said.

"Let the whole world see this, they are displaced people. Look at them, they are civilians, displaced civilians. They fled the bombardment," the man's voice said.

A man in another video of the Abedin camp, which houses people who had escaped fighting in neighbouring Hama province, said as many as 75 people had died.

Syrian state media did not mention the bombing. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the civil war, said 10 civilians died.

Reuters could not independently confirm the attack. Barrel bombs are crudely made containers filled with nails, metal shrapnel and explosive material that are dropped from helicopters.

Rights groups say they have been dropped by the army on densely populated neighbourhoods in defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the indiscriminate explosives.

The United States said it was "horrified" by the reports of the bombing while adding it could not confirm details.

"The attack on the Abedin camp was nothing short of barbaric," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. "Unfortunately, if it is confirmed to be the work of the (Assad) regime, it is only the latest act of brutality by the regime against its own people."

One video shows a man arriving at the scene on a motorbike. He runs into the camp and screams at others to pick up the bodies, trying to convince them that the people on the ground with limbs missing might still survive if taken to hospital.

"This one's good! This one's good!" he shouts, telling two men to carry a limp body with one leg hanging from strips of flesh to a nearby pickup truck. "Pick him up from the stomach not the leg," he screams.

Nearly 10 million people have been displaced by Syria's civil war, which started with pro-democracy protests but grew into an armed revolt when security forces cracked down on the demonstrations. More than 3 million refugees have fled the country, and the conflict has killed close to 200,000 people, according to the United Nations.

Both the Syrian government and insurgent groups are accused by rights groups of killing civilians and destroying homes.