© Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
The Syrian army is unearthing a mass grave consisting of at least 40 corpses, many of them women and children, butchered by the Islamic State in the recently liberated ancient city of Palmyra.
The grave was discovered by engineers and “popular defense forces” in the Masakin al-Jahizia neighborhood in the city, which lies only 500 meters away from the ancient ruins, SANA reports.
Initially, the army has managed to pull 25 corpses out from the ground. Among those killed by IS were three children and five females. As the excavation proceeded, 15 more corpses were unearthed – all of them women and children.
Initial examination of the bodies revealed that some of the victims had been beheaded while other had been brutally tortured right before their death.
The army continues to excavate the mass grave, fearing that more bodies may be found.
In May of 2015, Islamic State militants killed at least 400 people in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, mostly women and children, Syrian state television said Sunday, citing residents.
According to Reuters, opposition activists on social media claimed that hundreds of bodies were in the streets of the city.
"The terrorists have killed more than 400 people.. and mutilated their bodies, under the pretext that they cooperated with the government and did not follow orders," a Palmyra resident told Syria's state news agency.
State employees were among hundreds killed in the massacre. Among them was the head of nursing department at the hospital and all her family.
In the meantime, engineering units continue their search for landmines and explosives as thousands had been hidden by the jihadists before they were driven out from the city with the help of the Russian forces working with the Syrian army.
Russian combat engineers arrived in Palmyra on Thursday with special robotic units to offer their expertise in detecting and dismantling mines in an area comprising over 180 hectares (445 acres) to save the UNESCO world heritage site, and help locals to return to safe existence.
“At least 3,000 explosive devices were installed in the city,” the sapper explained to RT. He said ISIS created an almost invisible interconnected network, partially hidden under hard paved roads, which could blow up the entire city.
A strategically important location, Palmyra had been seized by IS jihadists since May 2015. That month, ISIS reportedly slaughtered 400 people, mostly women and children. At the time, Reuters reported that a video posted by IS’ supporters showed the militants entering governmental buildings in search of Syrian soldiers. They were also seen pulling down pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez Assad.