02/22/2019, 14.45
SYRIA
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IS’s largest mass grave in Raqa could contain up to 3,500 people

The discovery was made over a year after the city’s liberation. Eight other mass graves have already been identified near the former Islamist stronghold. A Rapid Response Division team is engaged in the difficult task of identifying the victims. Out of 3,800 bodies exhumed since January 2018, 560 have been identified.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In the countryside outside Raqa, the former "capital" of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, civil protection workers found the largest and oldest IS mass grave. According to preliminary work, it could contain the remains of up to 3,500 people.

First responders learnt about the burial site in the al-Fukheikha agricultural suburb last month, more than a year after US-backed forces captured Raqa.

The belated discovery is the biggest example yet of the violence IS sowed during its rule. So far, more than 120 bodies have been dug up by the Rapid Response Division of Raqa's civil defence service.

"These are individual graves, but behind us, by the trees, are the mass graves of those executed by Daesh (IS)," said Asaad Mohammad, forensic assistant at the site.

"There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves, so at least 3,500 total," he said.

Eight other mass graves have already been identified around the northern Syrian city, but "Al-Fukheikha is the largest grave since IS came to Raqa" in 2014, said Mohammad.

The Rapid Response Division team logged any identifying details into a ledger and loaded the bodies into a white pickup to be re-buried about 10 kilometres away at a proper cemetery.

Since it began its work in January 2018, the team has exhumed more than 3,800 bodies. Among them are 560 that were identifiable and were handed over to their families for a proper burial.

Identification is often just basic, because relatives who come to inquire about a missing relative can only provide some details about the person’s physical traits.

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