After recapturing the city of Palmyra from ISIS, Syrian troops discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of dozens of men, women, and children who had been decapitated or shot, AFP reports. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its ancient ruins, was captured by ISIS last May. According to the BBC, one human rights group estimates that in the months since then ISIS executed at least 280 people. The mass grave found Friday contained 42 bodies, 24 of which were civilians and three of which were children. They were soldiers or supporters of the Assad regime and their relatives. Only some of the bodies have been identified so far.
The reclaiming of Palmyra by Syrian troops last Sunday is seen by experts as one of the biggest setbacks for ISIS in two years. But its months in the hands of the terrorist group took a toll beyond the loss of life. The AP reports many of the ancient ruins that once drew tens of thousands of tourists every year were destroyed by ISIS, including the 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph, two Roman-era temples, and a 13th century citadel. And what remains of the city following ISIS' occupation and Syrian and Russian airstrikes is empty. Residents are too afraid of either violence from the Assad regime or remaining ISIS landmines to return. One Syrian officer says they've dismantled 3,000 mines left by ISIS so far. "They booby-trapped everything, trees, doors, animals," he says.