DAMASCUS -- Syrian authorities discovered a mass grave in Palmyra, state media said, unearthing 12 bodies in the ancient city that had been overrun by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters for two years.
"Authorities found the remains of a number of civilians and soldiers in a mass grave near Palmyra's archaeological theatre," Syria's official news agency SANA said.
Twelve bodies were recovered and taken to hospital to be identified using DNA testing, it said.
ISIS 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.
Palmyra became a stage for public executions and other gruesome crimes, some of which were pictured and distributed in ISIS propaganda.
The headless body of 82-year-old chief archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad also was displayed there by ISIS henchmen who had tortured him to get him to reveal where the site's artefacts had been transferred. ISIS killed him in 2015.
Bent on their enterprise of cultural genocide, the extremists blew up Palmyra's Baal Shamin shrine. They destroyed the Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph, looted what they could from the museum and defaced statues and sarcophagi.
In 2016, the extremists committed at least 280 executions in Palmyra, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
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 ISIS mass graves contained 200 bodies and was discovered in 2019 near al-Raqa, the group's former de-facto capital in Syria.
In July, municipal workers unearthed a mass grave of ISIS victims in the Aleppo province city of Manbij, in northern Syria, just metres away from the Manbij Hotel.
The extremist group had co-opted the hotel as an interrogation centre when it occupied the area between 2014 and 2016.
The remains were found handcuffed and blindfolded, and included the bodies of women and children, eyewitnesses told Al-Mashareq.
ISIS seized large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" and killing thousands before it was territorially defeated.