US accuses Syria of mass executions and burning the bodies

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2015 file-pool photo, Stuart Jones speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. The Trump administration is accusing the Syrian government carrying out mass killings of thousands of prisoners and burning the dead bodies in a large crematorium outside the capital. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday accused the Syrian government of carrying out mass killings of thousands of prisoners and burning the bodies in a large crematorium outside the capital.

The State Department said it believed that about 50 detainees a day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison, about 45 minutes from Damascus. Many of the bodies, it said, are then being burned in the crematorium.

“We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Saydnaya prison,” said Stuart Jones, the top U.S. diplomatic for the Middle East.

The department released commercial satellite photographs showing what it said is a building in the prison complex that has been modified to support the crematorium. The photographs taken over the course of several years, beginning in 2013, do not definitely prove the building is a crematorium, but they show construction consistent with such use. One photograph taken in January 2015 shows one area of the building’s roof cleared of snow due to melt.

In presenting the photographs, Jones said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government “has sunk to a new level of depravity” with the support of Russia and Iran and called on both countries to use its influence with Syria to establish a credible ceasefire and begin political talks.

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