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Mass grave with beheaded ISIS victims found in last terrorist enclave in Syria

United States Marines emplace an M252 81mm medium-weight mortar system on a cliff-side overlooking the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Deir Ezzor province, Syria, Oct. 11, 2018. (Sgt. Matthew Crane/U.S. Army)
February 28, 2019

U.S.-backed forces in Syria recently discovered a mass grave containing dozens of bodies of ISIS victims.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized ISIS-held territory and made the discovery of the mass grave, which contained dozens of beheaded ISIS victims, most of which were women.

SDF commander Adnan Afrin told Reuters, “They were slaughtered,” adding that an investigation was being conducted to determine the victims’ origins and cause of death.

It’s not clear whether the bodies all belonged to Yazidi tribe women and children who rejected ISIS rule, or if some belong to ISIS militants who were killed by SDF.

Since 2014, more than 3,000 Yazidis were killed by ISIS after the terror group stormed across the Syrian border and into their village, Fox News reported. Many were also taken by ISIS for sex slavery. The Yazidi tribe is a religious sect that considers ISIS to be devil-worshippers.

The United Nations called the Yazidi killings “genocidal,” and it prompted some of the first airstrikes carried out by the U.S.

The grave was discovered in the Baghouz region where SDF has been confronting hundreds of ISIS fighters in the last remaining stronghold. The SDF is on the verge of wiping out the final ISIS village located along the Euphrates River.

“We will announce the complete victory over Daesh (Islamic State) in a week,” SDF commander-in-chief Mazloum Kobani said in a video released by the SDF on Thursday.

Only an estimated several hundred ISIS fighters remain in Baghouz in small remote clusters near the Euphrates River, and they refuse to surrender. However, they’ve been mixed in with civilians, slowing the SDF’s efforts.

An estimated 40,000 civilians have evacuated the ISIS territory in the past three months, many coming from caves and tunnels, and surpassing previous estimates. The SDF is waiting to evacuate all civilians before making the final push to kill or capture the remaining ISIS fighters.

Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition said the Baghouz province was “more crowded with both civilians and fighters than expected.”

“The overflow during the lull in battle has been difficult for the SDF and they have responded to everything well …,” Ryan added.

Additionally, SDF recently freed 24 of its own fighters that were taken hostage by ISIS during civilian evacuation efforts.

Despite what will be a milestone in the SDF’s fight against ISIS by eradicating its hold in Baghouz, the terror group is still considered a threat. Guerilla warfare tactics, sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq, and affiliates in West Africa and Egypt all continue to be a concern.