05/05/2020, 11.56
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Al-Hota mass grave of ISIS victims

According to HRW, the militiamen used the area for years as a "landfill" for the bodies of people killed. The gorge, 50 meters deep and once a site of "great beauty", has become "a place of horror". At least 20 mass graves were found between Syria and Iraq. Victims include activists, humanitarian workers, journalists.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Islamic State (SI, ex Isis), which in the period of maximum expansion in 2015 occupied half of the territories of Syria and Iraq, "for years" used a gorge in the north-east of Syria as a "landfill" for the bodies of people they kidnapped or killed, reports Human Rights Watch (HRW). The gruesome findings are contained in a report based on a series of surveys with the use of drones inside the hole over 50 meters deep.

The jihadists of the self-styled "caliphate" used the area about 85 km north of Raqqa to eliminate the corpses during the period when the area was under their control, and at a later stage. Victims include activists, humanitarian workers, journalists and residents who did not want to submit to the dictates of the militiamen. "Al-Hota gorge, once a beautiful natural site, has become a place of horror and reckoning," said Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Exposing what happened there, and at the other mass graves in Syria, is crucial to determining what happened to the thousands of people ISIS executed and holding their killers to account," she said.

Today the territory is under the control of Syrian rebels, supported by Turkey, while the city of Raqqa (once a jihadist stronghold) is garrisoned by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Over 20 mass graves have been found between Syria and Iraq used by ISIS to eliminate evidence of their massacres. To date, the number of bodies thrown into the al-Hota gorge is unknown; the survey on the area was carried out with interviews with the locals, videos shot by ISIS and analysis of satellite images.

The existence of the pit emerged when a "caliphate" fighter brought his computer to a shop in the town of Tal Abyad to repair. One of the technicians copied the contents of the laptop and made it public. Inside there was also a video showing the militiamen as they threw corpses into the pit.

In a note, HRW specifies that "considering the state of decomposition, the bodies were discharged long after ISIS left the area. The identities of those victims and their causes of death remain unknown. " A similar ravine in northern Iraq, known as al-Khafsa, is believed to contain dozens of bodies of victims of the Islamic state.

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