Forensic teams and volunteers working in the Talaea Camp of Raqqa City announced that they have recovered 313 bodies of what is believed to be ISIS victims since work started in the area in June 2019.
Among the remains of the Talaea Camp on the outskirts of Raqqa City, forensic teams and volunteers are taking part in a grisly, thankless but necessary work: the mapping of mass graves left behind by ISIS militants and the identification of the victims within. The teams working here at the 14th Cemetery of the camp have so far exhumed 313 bodies since work started on the 6th of June, 2019.
The exhumation of bodies buried within mass graves and the identification of the victims within has been ongoing ever since the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) secured the city from ISIS militants in 2017. Although it has been two years since that time, mass graves continue to be uncovered, each of them highlighting the group’s brutality and the destruction experienced by the people of Raqqa even more.
Like those found elsewhere, some of the bodies found here are likely those who died during the siege of the city and the subsequent fighting. Indeed, a number of mass graves contained what appears to be ISIS militants, often foreigners, who were killed during the battles and buried en masse due to the sheer number of losses suffered by the group. However, many graves also contained innocent victims, including one grave where the dead were found shackled and evidence of being shot execution style.
The teams here, many of whom are volunteers from the Emergency Response Teams, will conduct forensic tests on the bodies to identify their sex, age and cause of death. Teams will also look for other items such as ID cards that can help identify who the victims were, if they were locals and if they have next of kin. Afterwards, they will be buried in separate graves.
The sheer number of mass graves being found two years after ISIS lost Raqqa City highlights just how brutal and destructive the group’s three-year reign over the city was. The volunteers hope that by recovering the remains and identifying them before holding proper burials, the victims of the group can have some peace.