May 05, 2020

Drone discovers mass grave of Islamic State victims at bottom of gorge in Syria
Islamic State fighters used a stunning gorge in north-eastern Syria as a mass grave for their victims, a Human Rights group has revealed, after it deployed a drone to confirm the suspicions. In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the terror group dumped the bodies of people it had abducted, tortured and executed in al-Hota gorge, near Raqqa. It is one of around 20 mass graves containing thousands of bodies in areas that were formerly held by the so-called Islamic State (IS). Local villagers told researchers from Human Rights Watch that people had been threatened by IS fighters with being thrown into the gorge, while videos posted on Facebook in 2014 show two victims being cast in. The clothes on the men's bodies in that video match the clothing of two men being killed on camera in a separate propaganda video, Human Rights Watch said. Activists used a drone to fly into the gorge, where they discovered six bodies floating in the water in a state of decomposition. “Al-Hota gorge, once a beautiful natural site, has become a place of horror and reckoning,” said Sara Kayyali, Human Rights Watch’s Syria researcher. “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.” It is likely that there are more bodies at the very bottom of the gorge, which the drone was unable to reach as it was underwater. Human Rights Watch has now called on Turkish forces, which control the area, to retrieve and identify the bodies so as to begin building a criminal case against IS for the atrocities committed in 2014 and beyond. “Whichever authority controls the al-Hota area is obliged to protect and preserve the site,” added Ms Kayyali. “They should facilitate the collection of evidence to hold ISIS members accountable for their horrendous crimes, as well as those who dumped bodies in al-Hota before or after the ISIS rule.” She also called on the Turkish MILITARY to clear the al-Hota area of boobytraps and other hazards that prevent thorough investigation of the site.
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