Severed heads found in mass grave near Syria IS pocket

Workers gather bodies found in another mass grave near the northern Syrian city of Raqa on February 19, 2019 (AFP Photo/Fadel SENNA)

Omar Oil Field (Syria) (AFP) - Bodies and severed heads have been found in a mass grave near the Islamic State group's last bastion in eastern Syria, a Kurdish spokesman said Thursday.

"A mass grave was discovered about 10 days ago in a liberated area" near Baghouz, said Adnan Afrin, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

"It contains the bodies of men as well as the severed heads of women," he told AFP.

The SDF is a Kurdish-Arab alliance that has spearheaded the ground battle against IS in Syria, with support from the US-led coalition.

Its fighters are days away from taking the last pocket of territory still held by the jihadists by the Euphrates river, near the Iraqi border.

Afrin said the number of bodies in the mass grave was not yet known and added that the site was discovered by accident when a bulldozer was at work in the area.

It is believed some of the victims could be from the Yazidi community, a mostly Iraq-based Kurdish-speaking religious minority that IS considers heretics.

But Afrin said the victims had not yet been identified.

The jihadists massacred hundreds of Yazidi men when they seized swathes of northern Iraq in 2014, enslaving thousands of women and girls.

Earlier in February, the Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria discovered a mass grave near the city of Raqa, holding an estimated 3,500 bodies -- the largest to date.

Raqa, which the SDF took in 2017, was the de facto Syrian capital of IS's collapsed "caliphate".

Dozens of mass graves containing the bodies of civilians and fighters killed by IS had been discovered across Syria and Iraq in recent years.