An activist group and online sources reporting from inside Syria claim that a mass grave filled with approximately 230 corpses has been discovered in eastern Syria. The victims are reportedly members of the Sheitaat tribe, which has been battling the Islamic State in the province of Deir Ezzor.
The fog of war makes it difficult, if not impossible, to fully verify accounts of human rights atrocities and other aspects of the conflict. The Long War Journal cannot independently verify accounts of the mass grave.
The Sheitaat tribesmen have waged fierce battles against the Islamic State, which claims to rule over a caliphate across large parts of Iraq and Syria, since earlier this year. There have been multiple reports in the past several months detailing the Islamic State’s mass executions and other barbaric acts in eastern Syria.
Images of the newly discovered mass grave began surfacing on Twitter feeds within the past day. And the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) has released a statement saying that “reliable” sources have informed the group that the site of the atrocity “was found in al-Keshkeyyi Desert in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.”
“It is worth mentioning that hundreds of the people were killed after arrest, some of them were beheaded, and others had been pursued and executed in the villages and towns that they escaped to in the countryside of Deir Ezzor,” the SOHR statement reads. “The SOHR could document dozens of names.”
The SOHR previously reported that 700 other Sheitaat tribesmen had been slaughtered in August. If that figure and the latest account are accurate, then the Islamic State has killed more than 900 members of the tribe this year, the group points out.
The United Nations has also documented the mass killings that occurred in August. The conflict between the Islamic State and the Sheitaat tribe “was perpetrated in a struggle for control of oil resources near the town of Mohassan,” the UN reported in November. A survivor described the scene, saying there were “many heads hanging on walls while I and my family escaped.” And a “[p]ublished video” indicates that Islamic State fighters “conducted a mass execution of fighting-age male members of the” tribe.
The UN says that on Nov. 6, 2014, the emir of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, “issued a statement, granting members of the [Sheitaat] tribe permission to return to their homes, upon the condition that they do not assemble, surrender all weapons and inform on all ‘apostates’ to” the Islamic State. Baghdadi added that all “traitors” would be executed.
The images below have been posted on various Twitter feeds by individuals inside Syria.
The Long War Journal is posting the images, some of which are graphic, because they document the Islamic State’s alleged war crimes. The photos do not independently corroborate the casualty count reported by various sources.
*Warning: Graphic images below*