Syria on Thursday (21/10) executed 24 people accused of sparking forest fires last year. Syria’s Ministry of Justice said the forest fires killed three people and destroyed thousands of hectares of forest.
Executions are commonplace in Syria, a country ravaged by civil war, but the number of people sentenced to death on Thursday was higher than usual.
The Syrian conflict, which has lasted for more than ten years, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced half of the country’s entire population, including five million who fled to neighboring countries.
The Ministry of Justice called the 24 executed people “criminals who carried out terrorist attacks that caused death and damage to infrastructure and public property.” The ministry also stated that 11 other suspects in the same case had been sentenced to life imprisonment. Nine others – including five teenagers – were sentenced to prison terms that varied from 10 to 12 years.
Syria’s Ministry of Justice said that by the end of 2020, authorities had detained dozens of people who confessed to planning fires in August 2020. A month later they began setting fires that affected 280 towns and villages, and damaged 370 homes. In total 24,000 hectares of forest and plantations were destroyed by the fires.
Wildfires broke out in several countries in the Middle East in October 2020 amid an unusual heatwave that year. The forest fires have devastated Syria. Three people died in the fires that ravaged vast areas of forest, mostly in the Latakia area and central Homs province.
President Bashar Al Assad’s hometown of Qardaha, Latakia, was also hit by a massive fire that damaged a building formerly used as a warehouse for a state-owned tobacco company, which partially collapsed. Assad made a rare visit to the region shortly after the fires were brought under control. [em/lt]