Hundreds of bodies have been found in at least two mass graves in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the former stronghold of Daesh, according to local news agencies.
Contrasting reports of the number and identity of the bodies have been circulated with Syrian state news agencies claiming that some 200 bodies were found, the victims being soldiers of the Syrian army killed by Daesh militants.
However, Syrian news site Zaman Al-Wasl, which has expressed support for opposition groups, stated that some 500 bodies were found, with Daesh fighters and their families among the dead. According to local activist Abdul Aziz Al-Metleq, most of the victims were believed to have been killed by the US-led air strikes and the Kurdish militia groups associated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Whilst none of the bodies have been individually identified, some of the corpses were reportedly marked with the nom de guerre of militants, whilst those of civilians had only their first names.
One of the mass graves was found under a football pitch close to a hospital which Daesh had dug in and used as a hideout before being ousted from the city by the US-backed SDF last October. The corpses are being transferred out of the city by the Kurdish-led Raqqa Civil Council according to senior official Abdallah Al-Eriane.
Zaman Al-Wasl further stated that the regime had found a mass grave of some 60 Syrian troops near Tabqa airbase, dating back to a 2014 offensive, and that the bodies have now been removed to a hospital in Aleppo.
Dozens of mass graves have been found in Syria’s eastern provinces in recent years, particularly in regions formerly held by Daesh.
Two mass graves were found in Raqqa last year and in October, some 128 bodies were found in the town of Qaryatayn after Syrian regime forces recaptured areas of the Homs province from Daesh fighters, despite the militants only having held the town for three weeks.
“ISIS has over a period of 20 days executed at least 116 civilians in reprisal killings, accusing them of collaboration with regime forces,” Syrian Observatory of Human Rights Chief Rami Abdelrahman said at the time, using another name for Daesh.
In Raqqa over 1,800 people are believed to have been killed during the battle between Daesh and the SDF, with many killed as a result of air strikes when used as human shields by militants.