Mass grave containing 200 bodies uncovered in Raqqa

Officials say as many as 800 people, including those killed by ISIL, could have been buried in the mass grave.

    Local officials say as many as 800 people could be buried in the mass grace [File: Al Jazeera]
    Local officials say as many as 800 people could be buried in the mass grace [File: Al Jazeera]

    As many as 200 corpses, including of some people believed to have been killed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group, have been found in a mass grave near the Syrian city of Raqqa, a local official and a war monitor said.

    Yasser al-Khamees, who leads a team of first responders, said on Wednesday the mass grave was discovered early last month on the southern edges of Raqqa, ISIL's former de facto capital.

    Among the bodies found, five appeared to belong to middle-aged men dressed in the orange jumpsuits typically worn by the armed group's hostages, al-Khamees and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    "They were shackled and shot in the head," he said.

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    The bodies of three women, believed to have been stoned to death, were found, the official said, adding that "their skulls were severely fractured".

    As many as 800 people could be buried there in total, he said.

    The discovery of the grave could help identify even more of the several thousand people whose fates remain unknown, including foreigners imprisoned by ISIL.

    The armed group took full control of Raqqa in early 2014 and made it the de facto Syrian capital of its infamous cross-border "caliphate".

    US-backed forces removed ISIL from the devastated city in October 2017, leaving the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC) to run it.

    The RCC has been retrieving bodies from the rubble across the city that has been left in ruins by the months-long assault to expel the armed group.

    "This grave is part of a series of graves located in the area of the Vanguard camp where more than 3,500 bodies have been recovered over the past months," an unnamed official told the DPA news agency. 

    The grave, uncovered in February and the largest known to date, is at a site where ISIL is believed to have trained children to fight. 

    Several other mass graves have already been identified around the city, including one in the neighbourhood known as "Panorama" from which more than 900 bodies were exhumed.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies