Mass graves, booby traps as troops sweep Aleppo

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIRUT: Rus­sia’s De­fense Ministry said yes­ter­day that its troops had found mass graves in Syria’s Aleppo with bod­ies show­ing signs of tor­ture and mu­ti­la­tion. Dozens of bod­ies have been un­cov­ered, ac­cord­ing to Ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov. He said some bore gun­shot wounds. While the Syr­ian war is now largely fought with mor­tars, tanks, and air power, death has come at close quar­ters as well. Hu­man rights ob­servers and the me­dia have recorded nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of mas­sacres and or­ga­nized tor­ture, per­pe­trated by the gov­ern­ment, op­po­si­tion, and the Is­lamic State group.

The Rus­sian Air Force has helped Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad and its al­lies to cap­ture Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, af­ter weeks of a siege. Rus­sia has since dis­patched mil­i­tary po­lice to the city. Konashenkov also ac­cused rebels, who con­trolled eastern Aleppo be­fore they were pushed out ear­lier this month, of lay­ing mul­ti­ple booby traps and mines across town, en­dan­ger­ing the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, which gath­ers in­for­ma­tion on the con­flict through lo­cal con­tacts, said on Sun­day that at least 63 Syr­ian sol­diers and mili­ti­a­men had been killed by such booby traps in east Aleppo since the gov­ern­ment took con­trol of it from rebels last Thurs­day. The Ob­ser­va­tory said the vic­tims were a mix of dem­i­ning per­son­nel and sol­diers or mili­ti­a­men loot­ing the dis­tricts.

As Rus­sian and Syr­ian forces se­cured and con­sol­i­dated eastern Aleppo, Syr­ian pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad was show­ing signs of in­creas­ing con­fi­dence in his po­si­tion. On Sun­day, As­sad vis­ited a Chris­tian or­phan­age near the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus to mark Christ­mas. Pho­tographs posted on the Syr­ian pres­i­dency’s Face­book page showed As­sad along with his wife, Asma, stand­ing with nuns and or­phans in the Da­m­as­cus sub­urb of Sed­naya.

In the north­ern city of Aleppo, Chris­tians cel­e­brated Christ­mas for the first time in four years with the coun­try’s largest city now un­der full con­trol of gov­ern­ment forces. The rebel withdrawal from east Aleppo last week marked As­sad’s big­gest vic­tory since Syria’s cri­sis be­gan in 2011. Chris­tians, one of the largest re­li­gious mi­nori­ties at about 10 per­cent of Syria’s pre-war 23 mil­lion-strong pop­u­la­tion, have tried to stay on the side­lines of the con­flict. How­ever, the op­po­si­tion’s in­creas­ingly out­spo­ken Is­lamism has kept many lean­ing to­ward As­sad’s gov­ern­ment.

— AP

BERLIN: Demon­stra­tors wait for the launch of the Civil March for Aleppo at the air field of the for­mer Tem­pel­hof air­port yes­ter­day.

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