Syrian authorities discovered a mass grave in Palmyra, state media said, unearthing 12 bodies in the ancient city that had been overrun by Daesh group fighters for two years.
“Authorities found the remains of a number of civilians and soldiers in a mass grave near Palmyra’s archaeological theater,” Syria’s official news agency SANA said.
Twelve bodies were recovered and taken to hospital to be identified using DNA testing, SANA said. Daesh seized Palmyra twice between 2015 and 2017, when it launched campaigns to systematically destroy and loot the UNESCO world heritage site’s monuments and temples. The group used the ancient Roman theater as a venue for execution-style killings and beheaded Palmyra’s 82-year-old retired chief archaeologist Khaled Al-Assaad after he refused to leave the city.
In 2016, the jihadists executed at least 280 people in Palmyra, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor. The jihadists also blew up the tetrapylon monument and part of the Roman theater before they were driven out by the Syrian army with Russian backing in 2017.
Dozens of mass graves have been found in Iraq and Syria but the identification process is slow, costly and complicated. One of the biggest alleged Daesh mass graves contained 200 bodies and was discovered in 2019 near Raqqa, the group’s former de-facto capital in Syria.
Daesh seized large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” and killing thousands before they were territorially defeated. Rights groups have repeatedly called on authorities to investigate the fate of thousands who went missing during Daesh rule.
Syria’s war, which erupted in 2011 after the brutal repression of anti-government protests, has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.—Agencies