Watchdog: Syrian group uncovering IS mass graves needs help

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists working to uncover mass graves in northeastern Syria – a region until recently controlled by the Islamic State group – need help to preserve evidence, identify human remains and shed more light on the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by the militants during their reign there, an international watchdog said today.

Human Rights Watch said thousands of bodies – both of civilian victims brutally slain by the extremists, resident killed in airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition and of IS fighters themselves – remain to be recovered in several mass graves scattered around the city of Raqqa and nearby areas.

According to remnants of clothing on them, some of the bodies already found are thought to be of IS militants.

The appeal came in a new report released by the New York-based group.

Local members of the Raqqa Civil Council are "struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of collecting and organizing information" on the bodies uncovered and providing it to families searching for missing or dead relatives, HRW said.

Raqqa was the extremists' de facto capital and the seat of their self-proclaimed caliphate – from which IS ruled the territories it controlled – lands that at the height of the militants' power in 2014 amounted to a third of both Syria and Iraq.

The caliphate and the contiguous territory under IS crumbled in October last year.

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