United States says Assad using 'crematorium' to hide mass killings

Frederick Owens
May 20, 2017

The US State Department on Monday accused the Syrian government of carrying out mass killings of thousands of prisoners and using a "crematorium" installed in a military prison outside Damascus to cover up the slaughter.

Syria's Foreign Ministry denied on Tuesday a recent US report that the Syrian authorities are using crematorium to hide mass killing in a military prison near capital Damascus. "Credible sources have believed that numerous bodies have been disposed in mass graves", Jones told reporters at a briefing. Now, the State Department is releasing aerial photos dating back to 2013 with one building on the compound labeled, quote, "probable crematorium".

If this all sounds eerily familiar it should.

Jones accused Assad's government of sinking "to a new level of depravity". While our modern-day Nero fiddles, Syrians, quite literally, burn.

In other developments, Syrian activists said government forces were escalating attacks on opposition-held areas protected under a recently brokered cease-fire agreement.

Jones, an acting assistant secretary of state, said Washington's information came from credible humanitarian agencies and from the USA "intelligence community" - implying that classified evidence beyond the commercial pictures exists. He also said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had raised concerns about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brutality with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Washington last week.

The U.S.is accusing Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria of killing thousands of people from 2011 to 2015 and using a crematorium to dispose of their bodies.

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The official said the atrocities were committed with Russia's "seemingly unconditional support". "And according to multiple sources, the regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Saydnaya".

The State Department released newly declassified commercial satellite photos of what it said is a building at the prison used as the crematorium.

The government of President Bashar Assad has always been accused of killing thousands of prisoners and burying them in mass graves.

Nicolette Waldman, who wrote the 48-page report after a yearlong investigation, said the number of people killed may be much higher.

The revelations echoed a February report by Amnesty International that said Syria's military police hanged as many as 13,000 people in four years before removing bodies by the truckload for burial in mass graves.

The deal was reached with support from Iran and Turkey during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana earlier this month.

"We call upon Russian Federation to use its influence with the Assad regime to get it to adhere to a lasting negotiated ceasefire".

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