The United States accused Syria on Monday of executing thousands of imprisoned political opponents and burning their bodies in a crematorium to hide the evidence, testing the US administration’s willingness to respond to atrocities, other than chemical weapons attacks, that it blames on Syria’s regime headed by authoritarian Bashar Assad’s.
A handout satellite image was released on Feb. 7, 2017, by Amnesty International shows the military-run Saydnaya prison, one of Syria’s largest detention centers located 18 miles north of Damascus. More so, the State Department said some 50 detainees a day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison.
It added that the crematorium is being used to hide evidence of the shocking extent of the killings.
The allegation of mass killings came as United States President Donald Trump weighs options in Syria, where the US launched cruise missiles on a government air base last month after accusing Assad’s military of killing scores of civilians with a sarin-like nerve agent.
In its latest accusations of Syrian abuses, the State Department said it believed about 50 detainees each day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison, about 45 minutes north of Damascus. Many of the bodies are then burned in the crematorium “to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place,” said Stuart Jones, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, accusing Assad’s government of sinking “to a new level of depravity.”
The department released commercial satellite photographs showing what it described as a building in the prison complex that was modified to support the crematorium. The photographs, taken over the course of several years, beginning in 2013, do not prove the building is a crematorium, but show construction consistent with such use.
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 carting out bodies by the truckload for burial in mass graves.
Although the State Department cast its unusual news conference as an effort to press Assad’s key backers, Russia and Iran, it also underscored Trump’s lack of a strategy for stopping Syria’s violence. The war has killed as many as 400,000 people since 2011, contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II and enabled terror group ISIS to emerge as a global threat.