State Department: Syria covered up mass killings since start of civil war

In a startling accusation leveled against the Syrian government Monday, the U.S. State Department alleged President Bashar al-Assad has operated a secret crematorium in which opponents of the Assad regime are routinely killed and their bodies incinerated.

According to a widely-distributed report in February, Amnesty International estimates 13,000 prisoners have died at Saydnaya since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, mainly by hanging after being removed from their cells in the middle of the night under the pretense of transfer to another facility.

The State Department alleges up to 50 detainees are hanged daily and their bodies disposed of in a crematorium at Saydnaya military prison outside Damascus. In addition, U.S. intelligence estimates up to nearly 120,000 civilians were abducted by Syrian government forces from 2011–2015.

Describing the camp as constructed to eliminate inmates’ remains with “little evidence,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Bureau Stuart Jones told reporters at a State Department briefing:

“Although the regime’s many atrocities are well documented, we believed building a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass killings taking place in Saydnaya prison.”

Jones distributed satellite images of the camp, meticulously highlighting additional construction of a building which the State Department believes is a crematorium.  In comparisons of images taken as early as 2013, no such structure existed.

This map shows the relation to the prison of the crematorium, and their proximity to the Syrian capital of Damascus. It's believed that the execution orders came from top officials

In his presentation, Jones assailed the Russian Federation for its association with the Assad regime, saying the Kremlin has turned a blind eye at Syrian atrocities, but stopped short of suggesting the Kremlin is complicit in the alleged evildoing at Saydnaya.

Included in Jones’ remarks was a demand Russia draw on its sway over Assad to end the carnage.


[The Guardian] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Al Arabiya]