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Syria’s opposition accused the government Monday of killing 40 people in a massacre in a central town in a bid to terrorize people into flight to change the confessional balance of the region.

The Syrian National Council said that a further 120 people were wounded in the attack by troops and militia on Harbanafsah, in Hama province, a town of some 8,000 inhabitants.

“Regime forces bombarded the town… with tanks and heavy weapons for five hours straight,” the SNC said. “They then stormed the town.”

The group said the government’s “criminality and desire to commit murder and instill terror has reached such a point that the military and security services, as well as the shabiha (loyalist militia) from nearby… villages, chased fleeing townspeople with knives and live ammunition.”

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