IS Blows Up Palmyra’s Ancient Tower Tombs

IS Blows Up Palmyra’s Ancient Tower TombsIS Blows Up Palmyra’s Ancient Tower Tombs

The Islamic State group has blown up three of the famed tower tombs of Syria’s ancient desert city of Palmyra, antiquities department chief, Maamoun Abdelkarim, said on Friday.

“They blew up three tower tombs, the best preserved and most beautiful,” he said.

He also confirmed that the tower of Elahbel, built in 103 AD, which was four stories high and had an underground floor, had been leveled by the militants who took control of the city in May.

The new destruction at the world-renowned and UNESCO World Heritage site, follows their demolition of the ancient shrine of Baal Shamin and the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, AFP reported.

IS also beheaded the site’s lead archeologist, 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, who had lived at Palmyra for more than 50 years, after he reportedly refused to cooperate with the militants.  The group considers the buildings sacrilegious.

UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova has said the systematic destruction of Palmyra constitutes a “war crime” and called on the international community to stand united against IS efforts to “deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history”.

The sale of looted antiquities is nevertheless one of the group’s main sources of funding. It has also been accused of destroying ancient sites to gain publicity.

The Syrian authorities removed hundreds of statues and priceless objects before IS overran Palmyra, among them the carved images found in the funerary towers.