State Department: Syria used crematorium to hide prison deaths


United States claims that Syria's regime is using a prison crematorium to destroy the remains of thousands of murdered detainees are "unfounded and disconnected from reality", Damascus said on Tuesday.

"Successive US administrations have repeatedly fabricated lies and allegations to justify their aggressive and interventionist policies in other sovereign countries", the ministry said.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, left, greets Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari for a meeting during Intra Syria talks at the Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry, Roman Nadal, said on Tuesday in remarks quoted by local media that the U.S. accusations are "extremely dangerous" and added that the Syrian regime is "dragging a heavy asset of terror" pointing out that his country "calls for the opening of an global investigation into the Sednaya prison as soon as possible". Syrian activists say a number of rockets struck the opposition-controlled suburb, killing several people.

Officials said a discharge stack and architectural elements thought to be a firewall and air intake were also suggestive of a place to burn bodies.

One newly-released image, a commercial satellite photograph dating back to January 2015, shows snow melting on the roof of a building attached to the Saydnaya military complex.

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"The reality of the situation in Syria is that they are executing people, using directed chemical attacks against them, and the latest extreme - burning their corpses, something we haven't seen in 70 years", Galant said, in a reference to the Holocaust. Opposition representatives are expected to meet with de Mistura later in the day.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said on Monday that up to 50 prisoners were hung each day at Sednaya, and then cremated to "cover up the extent of mass murders taking place".

"Any type of reduction of violence, in this case de-escalation, can not be sustained unless there is a political horizon in one direction or the other", he added. The deal was brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran. The photos showed a site outside of Damascus that appeared to be used as a crematorium, not unlike the ones German Chancellor Adolf Hitler used.

Local activists reported higher death tolls.

The war is now in its seventh year, in large part because government delegations have refused to discuss the possibility of a political transition from the rule of Assad.

Information for this article was contributed by Philip Issa, Bassem Mroue, Jamey Keaten, Edith M. Lederer and Hashem Osseiran of The Associated Press and by Anne Barnard, Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce of The New York Times.