Report: Mass grave of IS victims found in Syria’s Palmyra

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian authorities found a mass grave in the historic town of Palmyra with bodies of victims of the militant Islamic State group, which controlled the area years ago, Syria’s state news agency said Friday.

According to the report on SANA, the mass grave was discovered near the second-century Roman amphitheater. The agency said the remains of 12 people buried there have been taken to hospital morgues for identification before they can be handed over to their families.

Palmyra is a UNESCO world heritage site and once linked Persia, India, China with the Roman empire and the Mediterranean area. The Islamic State militants controlled the area in two turns in 2015-2016, and killed scores of people there — killings often captured in extremist propaganda videos — before they were evicted. IS also damaged some of the town’s famed archaeological treasures.

The brutality and the actions by IS in Palmyra triggered an international outcry. Palmyra was retaken in 2017 by Syrian government forces who have held it since then.

Palmyra, with its 2,000-year-old towering Roman colonnades and priceless artifacts, was affectionately referred to by Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert.”

Before Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 — a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands — Palmyra, was home to 65,000. To this day, a desert oasis surrounded by palm trees about 215 kilometers (155 miles) east of Damascus, it is also a strategic crossroads linking the Syrian capital with the country’s east and neighboring Iraq.

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