State Dept.: Assad using crematorium to hide atrocities

This image — taken via satellite in January 2015 — depicts what the State Department says is the crematorium at Saydnaya prison including snowmelt on the facility's roof that acting Assistant Secretary Stuart Jones says is proof of building'

Attributing new revelations about the "the depths to which the Syrian regime has gone with the continuing support of its allies, Russian Federation and Iran", to newly declassified reporting, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said that the regime had installed a crematorium at a notorious prison north of Damascus to dispose of the bodies of prisoners killed there, in a briefing to reporters Monday.

Others are buried in mass graves that mark the dead with numbers instead of names, he said.

"What we're assessing is that if you have that level of production of mass murder, then using the crematorium would", Jones said, " ... allow the regime to manage that number of corpses ... without evidence".

Numerous bodies are then burned in the crematorium "to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place", said Stuart Jones, the top USA diplomat for the Middle East.

More than 400,000 people have been killed since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, according to an estimate released previous year by Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria. A photograph of the building from January 2015, shows the building as the lone one in the complex with no snow on its roof.

The "newly-declassified" information and claims of additional crimes by President Bashar al-Assad's regime comes from "intelligence community assessments" and from other non-governmental organizations like the media and Amnesty International.

'These atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russian Federation and Iran, ' Jones said.

Syrian opposition spokesman Salem Meslet said the USA allegations about the use of a crematorium to cover up the mass killings were "credible" and not surprising.

KELEMEN: Syria was high on the agenda when Russia's foreign minister was here in Washington last week. They were pictured shaking hands and broadly smiling with President Donald Trump before an Oval Office meeting in which discussions centered on Syria.

The State Department released commercial satellite photographs showing what it described as a building in the prison complex that was modified to support the crematorium. They claim that Syria has built and is using a crematorium at the Sednaya military prison near Damascus to dispose of its prisoners bodies executed inside the facility.

In a photo taken January 15, he said, "we're look [ing] at snowmelt on the roof that would be consistent with a crematorium".

Jones said: "I would say that this information has been developing".

But Tillerson, he said, "was firm and clear with Minister Lavrov".

Jones called Tillerson's meeting with Lavrov "productive".

Another round of negotiations about the Syrian crisis is to begin Tuesday in Geneva, according to the Times.

Consistent with the Amnesty report, the United Nations formally accused Assad in February 2016 of authorizing the "extermination" of prisoners.

When asked how numerous bodies are being disposed of in mass graves, Jones said between 5,000 and 11,000 people had been killed in Saydnaya between 2011 and 2015. Former prisoners have reported mass hangings at the center.

"In addition to air strikes, the regime continues to systematically abduct and torture civilian detainees, often beating, electrocuting and raping these victims", he noted.

The new allegation comes at a time when the Trump administration is weighing its options in Syria, where an estimated 400,000 have been killed and half the population displaced by the 6-year-old civil war.

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