IS Beheads Leading Syrian Archeologist

IS Beheads Leading  Syrian ArcheologistIS Beheads Leading  Syrian Archeologist

Islamic State militants beheaded one of Syria’s most prominent antiquities scholars in the ancient town of Palmyra, then hung his body from one of the town’s Roman columns, Syrian state media and an activist group said Wednesday.

The killing of 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad was the latest atrocity perpetrated by the militant group, which has captured a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq and declared a self-styled “caliphate” on the territory it controls, AP reported.

According to Syrian state news agency SANA and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Assad was beheaded on Tuesday in a square outside the town’s museum.

The observatory, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said dozens of people gathered to witness the killing. Asaad had been held by the IS for about a month, it added.

Al-Asaad was “one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th century,” Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, told SANA.

IS had tried to extract information from him about where some of the town’s treasures had been hidden to save them from the militants, the antiquities chief also said.

SANA said Asaad had been in charge of Palmyra’s archaeological site for four decades until 2003, when he retired. After retiring, he worked as an expert with the antiquities and museums department.

Asaad had written many books and scientific texts either individually or in cooperation with other Syrian or foreign archeologists and discovered several ancient cemeteries, caves and the Byzantine cemetery in the garden of the Museum of Palmyra.