On Wednesday, a mass grave of 230 bodies was uncovered in Syria where Islamic State militants are believed to have massacred members of a tribe who tried to fight back.
Relatives of the dead, who were from the Sheitaat tribe, discovered the burial site in the country’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province, a monitoring group reported.
The grim discovery brings the number of tribe members killed during the jihadists’ summer advance in the province, which is close to the border with Iraq to more than 900, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The observatory has learned from trusted sources that more than 230 bodies have been found in a mass grave in the desert near Al-Kashkiyeh to the east of Deir ez-Zor,” said the Britain-based group.
It said the ‘vast majority’ of the dead were civilians, and that many of them had been executed in cold blood after the tribe rose up against IS fighters, having already driven out rival jihadists and rebels from the area.
Hundreds more members of the Sheitaat tribe, which numbers around 70,000, are still missing, said the Observatory, which relies on a large network of activists, doctors and military sources on all sides of the Syrian conflict for its reports.
Tribespeople discovered the grave as they returned to their villages after months of displacement having lost their battle against the IS radical group.
They were allowed to return only after agreeing to respect an IS-imposed curfew, as well as a ban on gatherings and having weapons.
According to the jihadists’ rules, anyone who fights back is considered a heretic and should be executed.
Islamic State militants control all but a few pockets of Deir ez-Zor province, which borders territory also under its control in Iraq.
The province’s oilfields have been a major source of revenue for the group although its operations have been under pressure since a U.S.-led coalition started launching air strikes against it in Syria in September.
In August, activists said the militant group had killed some 700 members of the Sheitaat tribe – the majority of them civilians – over the preceding two weeks after conflict flared when the militants took over two oilfields.
The observatory reported that beheadings were used to kill many of the tribe’s members.
Islamic State fighters are currently battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces near Deir ez-Zor city for a military air base that is one of the government’s last strongholds in the country’s east.
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