Mass grave found in Syria's Palmyra after city recaptured from Islamic State - state media

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Inside Palmyra: See ISIS Destruction of Ancient Syrian City

BEIRUT, April 2 (Reuters) - Syrian troops have identified 45 bodies so far in a mass grave found in the city of Palmyra after it was recaptured from Islamic State, a military source told Reuters on Saturday.

Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove Islamic State out of Palmyra last Sunday, inflicting what the army called a mortal blow to militants who had dynamited the city's ancient temples.

The communal grave, on the north-eastern edge of Palmyra, is the only one found so far in the city by the Syrian forces, the source said. It held the bodies of both civilians and Syrian army members captured by Islamic State.

Syrian state news agency SANA said on Friday the grave contained many women and children and some of the bodies had been beheaded.

In May last year, as Islamic State took control of Palmyra, the hard-line Islamist militants were reported by Syrian state media to have killed at least 400 people in the first four days of control.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the five-year-old Syrian conflict through a network of sources on the ground, said that Islamic State had killed a number of people at an earlier time and buried them on the outskirts of the city.

The Observatory reported on Saturday that fighting between Syrian forces and Islamic State around Qaryatain to the west of Palmyra. It also reported, and Russian and Syrian air strikes in the same area and to the east of Palmyra around the town of Sukhna.

Attacks by government forces against Islamic State positions to the around Palmyra are aimed at moving east across the desert to Islamic State-held Deir al-Zor near the Iraqi border, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington, editing by Jeremy Gaunt, Larry King)

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Mass grave found in Syria's Palmyra after city recaptured from Islamic State - state media
A view shows the damage at the Monumental Arch in the historical city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A burnt book of the vision of Saint Jean is seen on the ground next to a damaged church on March 31, 2016 in the modern town, adjacent to the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate in this file handout picture provided by SANA on March 27, 2016. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters/Files ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A view shows the Roman Theatre in the historical city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Jounalists walk near the remains of the Monumental Arch in the historical city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view shows the remains of the Temple of Bel in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A billboard (L) with Koranic verses is seen in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Smoke rises from the modern city as seen from the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A picture taken on March 31, 2016 shows destruction at the museum of the ancient city of Palmyra, some 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 31, 2016 shows pieces of beheaded and mutilated sculptures on the ground at the museum of the ancient city of Palmyra, some 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
A view of the external columns of Palmyra's Temple of Bel in the ancient Syrian city on March 31, 2016 The main building of the ancient temple, the 'Cella', was destroyed by jihadists of the Islamic State group in August 2015 as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity. Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from jihadists who view the UNESCO-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
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