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Mass grave uncovered in Syria’s Palmyra

Maher Al Mounes, AFP | The ruins of the Temple of Bel in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, after its destruction by the Islamic State (IS) group in September, 2015

Syrian forces have uncovered a mass grave containing around 40 bodies on the outskirts of Palmyra, which was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS) group last week, Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Friday.

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The grave, which included the remains of women and children, was found along the northeastern edge of Palmyra, according to SANA. Some of the bodies were reportedly decapitated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a British-based organisation that monitors the five-year conflict in Syria through a network of sources on the ground – said that the IS group had killed a number of people at an earlier time and buried them outside the city.

The gruesome discovery came after Syrian government forces recaptured Palmyra from the IS group last Sunday, revealing the full extent of the destruction that had been wrought upon the city during the 10 months it was occupied.

After seizing control of Palmyra in May 2015, IS group militants demolished a number of relics in the ancient city – a UNESCO World Heritage site – including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the famed Arch of Triumph. The group also beheaded Palmyra’s retired antiquities chief, Khaled al-Asaad, who had looked after the area for 40 years.

Despite the extensive damage, many of the city’s Roman-era ruins were left intact, such as the Agora and the ancient theatre. The theatre, however, was the scene of a real human tragedy last May after the IS group publically executed 25 Syrian government soldiers there.

Syria’s government has since vowed to restore the destroyed archaeological sites, and Syrian military engineers have already begun work combing the ruins for mines suspected to have been left behind by the IS group.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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