Human Rights

ISIS mass grave of 450 bodies discovered in Raqqa

Syria

The Emergency Response Team has been removing bodies for nearly 60 days from al-Fakhekha cemetery which was a centre of operations of ISIS militants during their control over Raqqa.

The Raqqa Civil Council in coordination with the Emergency Response Team have discovered another mass grave in the eastern city of Raqqa. Al-Fakhekha Cemetery, which was a centre of operations for ISIS in the city, was used as a mass grave for ISIS in its final days before the city’s liberation. According to the Emergency Response team, over 450 bodies have been excavated from the site so far, and they estimate to recover at least another 550 bodies.

“The forensic team needs a laboratory and a sample of each body to make sure of their identity, said Mahmoud Haj Ali, a medical examiner. “We take the sample and submit it to a DNA test to identify to whom it belongs.”

According to the forensic scientists present at the site, ISIS executed most of the individuals buried in this mass grave in a nearby desert, and their bodies were brought back and buried in al-Fakhekha Cemetery.

Since the liberation of ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria, over nine mass graves have been discovered throughout the city, each containing the bodies of hundreds of civilians and fighters.

“The number of bodies [discovered so far] has exceeded 4,100 as of today,” said Yassir al-Khamis, the head of the Emergency Response Team. “Our target is to set up a record for those missing. We have forensic doctors, and we will set up a record for those who were lost during the war.”

According to the Syrian Human Rights Network, there are at least 4,000 people still missing from the city of Raqqa alone. As a result of the high number of victims that remain unidentified, Human Rights Watch, along with other international organisations have called on the Raqqa Civil Council to set up a committee to document the names of ISIS’ victims and the war crimes that the militant group has carried out in the city.