Syria 'built crematorium to hide killings', says US

State Department claims President Bashar al-Assad is covering up thousands of atrocities at military prison


Syria has built a crematorium at a prison to dispose of the remains of murdered prisoners, the US State Department claimed yesterday.

Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, showed journalists a series of aerial photographs he said indicted the presence of a crematorium at the Sednaya military prison on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, Reuters reports.

US officials believe it has been used to dispose of the bodies of thousands of inmates.

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A report from Amnesty International this year claimed up to 50 people were hanged at the prison each week and between 5,000 and 13,000 had been executed since the start of the civil war six years ago.

Jones added: "Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves."

Al-Jazeera reports the photos show snow melting on the roof of one building and not others, indicating a significant heat source.

Jones also called on the governments of Iran and Russia, both of whom support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to use their influence to stop the alleged atrocities.

"We are appalled by the atrocities taking place in Syria [with the] seemingly unconditional support of Russia", he said, adding that Moscow had "aided or passively looked away" while the Syrian government acted.

"The regime must stop all attacks on civilian and opposition forces and Russia must bear responsibility to ensure regime compliance," he said.

The photos are understood to date back to 2015. It is not clear why the US State Department waited to reveal their findings.

Syria's civil war is now in its seventh year and has claimed around half a million lives and displaced many millions more.

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