Posted: Dec 19, 2013 4:04 AM
Updated: Dec 19, 2013 4:06 AM
GENEVA (AP) A U.N. panel probing war crimes in Syria says people around the country are systematically vanishing without a trace as part of a widespread campaign of terror against civilians.
The expert panel says it found "a consistent country-wide pattern" of Syrian security, armed forces and pro-government militia seizing people from mass arrests, house searches, checkpoints and hospitals, then making them disappear and denying that they even exist.
The four experts reported Thursday that rebel groups such as the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant that control large parts of northern Syria also have begun seizing people and running secret prisons.
But it says the opposition's abductions usually differ because the victims tend to be taken as hostages for ransom or prisoner exchanges, and their existence isn't concealed.