U.N.'s Amos says "devastated" by what she saw in Homs

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2012 8:14 AM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Thursday she was devastated by the destruction she saw in Baba Amr district of the Syrian city of Homs and she wants to know what happened to residents there as result of an assault by government forces.

"I was devastated by what I saw in Baba Amr yesterday," Amos told Reuters TV after leaving a meeting with ministers in Damascus.

"The devastation there is significant, that part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city."

Amos, a Briton, is the first senior international figure to visit Baba Amr since the government launched its assault against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebel fighters fled Homs a week ago after nearly a month of shelling by government forces.

Activists reported reprisals in Baba Amr by Assad loyalists after the rebels withdrew. Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who entered Baba Amr on Wednesday found it empty.

Syrian state television broadcast footage on Thursday of U.N. workers in blue bullet-proof vests and helmets taking photos of their crumbling surroundings, which the presenter said was Amos' team in Baba Amr.

Syria initially refused to grant Amos access to the country but relented after its allies Russia and China joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council in rebuking it.

Amos met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem on Wednesday and an aide said he told the U.N. humanitarian chief she would be able to go anywhere in Syria she wished to.

Amos' goal is to secure access for aid organizations, which have been barred from the heaviest conflict zones.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 civilians have been killed in the government's year-long crackdown on an anti-Assad uprising around the country while the Syrian government say more than 2,000 members of the army and security forces had been killed in armed attacks.

(Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Angus MacSwan)