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Syria ‘breaking up before everyone’s eyes:’ Brahimi tells U.N.

Published: Updated:

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be able to hold to power for now but warned that Syria is “breaking up before everyone's eyes.”

“The Syrian regime's legitimacy has been seriously, probably irreparably, damaged,” Brahimi told the 15-nation council behind closed doors, council diplomats present at the meeting told Reuters.

Brahimi added that he had “no progress” to report in his efforts to establish talks on a political transition in the country where 22 months of conflict have left more than 60,000 dead.

On Tuesday, the bodies of at least 65 people, some with hands tied behind their backs, were found in Syria's northern city of Aleppo as the government and rebels trying to overthrow it blamed each other for the latest mass killing.

Also Tuesday, a bomb wounded former legislator and once governor of the central province of Hama, Abdul-Razzak Qtini, as he was in his car, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a neighbor of Qtini said. The neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said Qtini is receiving treatment in a Damascus hospital.

The bodies, almost all of men in their 20s and 30s, were discovered in the contested neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, the director of the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul-Rahman said. Intense clashes between rebels and government troops have raged in the district since opposition forces launched an offensive on Aleppo in July.

Abdul-Rahman said the identities of the dead were unknown, and it was not clear who was behind the killings or when they occurred. A government official told The Associated Press in Damascus that the dead were residents of Bustan al-Qasr who were kidnapped and later killed.

Syrian state TV said the men were killed by members of Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaida-linked group that the Obama administration has labeled as a terrorist organization. It said the men were killed after they demanded members of the group to leave their areas.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, put the number of bodies found at 80. It blamed government forces for the killing.

Such exchanges of accusations over killings have been common in Syria since the country's conflict began in March 2011. With lawlessness and joblessness now rife in many areas, kidnappings for ransom are not uncommon.

An amateur video posted online showed dozens of bodies placed in rows on the ground and wrapped in blue blankets. A crowd of men, many covering their noses with scarves, walk among the dead, apparently trying to identify them.

A voice in the background says "number them," while another says "pray for them." At one point, a man stops at a body and breaks down into tears, shouting: "he's my brother."

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting on the events depicted.

The Observatory said a total of at least 160 people were killed in Syria Tuesday, while the LCC put the figure at 162. They numbers included the bodies of the men found in Aleppo.