US: Syria Is Burning Bodies to Hide Proof of Mass Killings - NECN
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US: Syria Is Burning Bodies to Hide Proof of Mass Killings

The allegation of mass killings came as President Donald Trump weighs options in Syria

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    NEWSLETTERS

    President Donald Trump spoke at Mar-a-Lago late Thursday, saying the U.S. missile strike on Syria was in the "vital national security interest" of the United States. The strike comes after the chemical weapons attack in Syria killed at least 100 people, including children. (Published Thursday, April 6, 2017)

    The United States accused Syria on Monday of executing thousands of imprisoned political opponents and burning their bodies in a crematorium to hide the evidence.

    The allegation could test the Trump administration's willingness to respond to atrocities, other than chemical weapons attacks, that it blames on President Bashar Assad's government.

    The allegation of mass killings came as President Donald Trump weighs options in Syria, where the U.S. launched cruise missiles on a government air base last month after accusing Assad's military of killing scores of civilians with a sarin-like nerve agent. Trump on Monday kicked off a week of meetings with Middle East leaders, sitting down with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi a day before he hosts Turkey's president. Trump flies to Saudi Arabia later this week.

    All are governments that have pressed the United States over six years of civil war in Syria to intervene more forcefully. Trump had backed away from President Barack Obama's calls for regime change in the Arab country, with the new president's officials pointedly saying leadership questions should be left to Syria's citizens, until his intervention last month. His administration now says Assad cannot bring long-term stability to Syria.

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    The Trump administration had a full day responding to President Donald Trump's Thursday missile strike on Syria, following news of a gas attack that killed more than 80 people. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Russia to abandon Syria as an ally, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis fielded domestic concerns at the Pentagon, promising "a very, very stiff price" for Syria's use of chemical warfare. 

    (Published Tuesday, April 11, 2017)

    In its latest accusations of Syrian abuses, the State Department said it believed about 50 detainees each day are being hanged at Saydnaya military prison, about 45 minutes north of Damascus. Many of the bodies are then burned in the crematorium "to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place," said Stuart Jones, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, accusing Assad's government of sinking "to a new level of depravity."

    The department released commercial satellite photographs showing what it described as a building in the prison complex that was modified to support the crematorium. The photographs, taken over the course of several years, beginning in 2013, do not prove the building is a crematorium, but show construction consistent with such use.

    The revelations echoed a February report by Amnesty International that said Syria's military police hanged as many as 13,000 people in four years before carting out bodies by the truckload for burial in mass graves.

    Although the State Department cast its unusual news conference as an effort to press Assad's key backers, Russia and Iran, it also underscored Trump's lack of a strategy for stopping Syria's violence. The war has killed as many as 400,000 people since 2011, contributed to Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II and enabled the Islamic State group to emerge as a global terrorism threat.

    Trump had been highly critical of Obama for failing to respond to earlier chemical weapons attacks in 2013 after setting a "red line" against such usage. After last month's attack in northern Syria, Trump said the Syrians crossed "a lot of lines" for his administration. Beyond authorizing cruise missiles in response, however, he didn't outline a strategy to eliminate the threat.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday reiterated the administration's line that Syria's future "should be decided by Syrians in a free credibly and transparent process." But he called such a future "unimaginable" if Assad is propped up with help from the "seemingly unconditional support from Russia and Iran." He didn't outline how such a future might become imaginable.

    RAW: Syria Bus Blast Kills at Least 100

    [NATL] RAW: Syria Bus Blast Kills at Least 100

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    (Published Saturday, April 15, 2017)

    Russia has shown no inclination to drop its support for Assad. It is now pushing the idea of "de-escalation zones" that would be designed to reduce violence, while not challenging Assad's authority over almost all of Syria's major cities.

    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been "firm and clear" in a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week that "Russia holds tremendous influence over Bashar al-Assad."

    A main point of that meeting "was telling Russia to use its power to rein in the regime," she said. "Simply put, the killing, the devastation has gone on for far too long in Syria."

    Syrian human rights groups and opposition activists have long reported on mass killings inside Syrian prisons, though not on bodies being burned to cover up evidence.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights corroborated the U.S. accounts of mass killings but said it lacked sufficient information about the crematorium.

    Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

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    (Published Friday, April 14, 2017)

    US accuses Syria of mass executions and burning the bodies
    By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer
    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 talk