BEIRUT — Syrian opposition activists raised the death toll to 260 in a military assault Saturday on the ravaged central city of Homs, an attack that opposition leaders described as the government’s bloodiest in the nearly 11-month-old uprising.
Reports were contradictory, given the difficulty of communications with Homs, and the Syrian government flatly denied the toll, calling it an attempt at propaganda ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting Saturday on Syria. But videos smuggled out of the city and reports by opposition activists showed a harrowing barrage of mortar shells and gunfire that left hundreds more wounded in the city.
“It’s an unprecedented attack,” said Mohammed Saleh, an opposition activist from Homs who recently fled to a nearby town to escape the mounting strife there.
As word spread of the barrage, opposition protests broke out Saturday at Syrian embassies around the world, including Egypt, Germany and Kuwait. In Cairo, protesters stormed the compound, smashing furniture and setting part of the first floor on fire.
Accounts by activists, independently basing their information on what they described as contacts in Homs, said the barrage was apparently unleashed after defectors attacked two military checkpoints and kidnapped soldiers. One activist put the number of abducted soldiers at 13, another 19. They suggested that enraged commanders then ordered the assault, which lasted from about 9 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday, focusing on the neighborhood of Khaldiya. Five other neighborhoods were also assaulted. . .