RAQQA: Two feet deep, below a plot of farmland outside the Syrian city of Raqqa, lies a large and deadly legacy of Daesh: A mass grave holding an estimated 3,500 people.
First responders learned of the burial site in the Al-Fukheikha suburb last month, more than a year after US-backed forces captured Raqqa from Daesh and as they closed in on the group’s final redoubt of Baghouz further south.
The belated discovery is the biggest example yet of how the violence Daesh sowed will be harvested for years to come, diggers and activists said.
Several dozen mounds of dirt line one side of the Al-Fukheikha plot, marking the more than 120 bodies already dug up by the Rapid Response Division of Raqqa’s civil defense service.
“These are individual graves, but behind us, by the trees, are the mass graves of those executed by Daesh,” said Asaad Mohammad, the 56-year-old forensic assistant at the site.
“There are some 2,500-3,000 bodies estimated there, plus between 900 and 1,100 bodies in the individual graves, so at least 3,500 total,” he said.
Eight other mass graves have already been identified around the northern Syrian city, including one nicknamed “Panorama,” from which more than 900 bodies had been exhumed.
Earlier this week, diggers in flimsy medical masks excavated a small bundle wrapped in greying, damp cloth.