Syria regime 'burning thousands of bodies' to hide mass-killings
The announcement was made by Stuart Jones, acting assistant secretary for the State Department Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, in Washington on Monday who gave reporters satellite pictures showing the alleged facility.
The US government said about 50 detainees a day are being hanged at Sednaya military prison, about 45 minutes from Damascus. Many of the bodies, it said, are then being burned in the alleged crematorium.
"Credible sources have believed that many of the bodies have been disposed in mass graves," Jones told reporters at the briefing.
"We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya prison complex which could dispose of detainees' remains with little evidence," he said.
"We believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place in Sednaya prison," said Jones.
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.
Amnesty International reported in February that an average of 20 to 50 people were hanged each week at the Sednaya military prison north of Damascus.
Between 5,000 and 13,000 people were executed at Sednaya in the four years since a popular uprising descended into war, it said.
In an interview with Yahoo News later, Assad denied the reports as 'fake news'.
Jones said Syrian President Bashar al-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 their influence with Syria to establish a credible ceasefire and begin political talks.Jones however said the US has "reason to be skeptical" about a deal to set up "de-escalation zones" brokered by Russia during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital Astana last week. His remarks come a few days before a new round of talks is set to convene in Astana.