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IS Blows Up Ancient Palmyra Temple

IS Blows Up Ancient Palmyra TempleIS Blows Up Ancient Palmyra Temple

Islamic State militants have destroyed Palmyra’s ancient temple of Baalshamin, Syrian officials and activists say.

Syria’s head of antiquities was quoted as saying the temple was blown up on Sunday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that it happened one month ago, BBC reported.

IS took control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears the group might demolish the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The group has destroyed several ancient sites in Iraq.

IS “placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baalshamin today [Sunday] and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP news agency.

“The cella (inner area of the temple) was destroyed and the columns around collapsed. Our darkest predictions are unfortunately taking place.”

Residents who had fled from Palmyra also said IS had planted explosives at the temple, although they had done it about one month ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Palmyra is famed for its well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins.

The temple, built nearly 2,000 years ago, was primarily a Roman era artifact. It was dedicated to the Phoenician deity of storms and fertilizing rains. The temples had been almost totally intact.

Last month, IS published photos of militants destroying what it said were artifacts looted at Palmyra.

A week ago, it emerged that the archeologist who had looked after Palmyra’s ruins for four decades had been beheaded by the militant group.

Abdulkarim said the 81-year-old had refused to tell IS where some treasures had been hidden to try and save them.

The group has also published photos of what they said was the destruction of two Islamic shrines near Palmyra, which they described as “manifestations of polytheism”.

The modern city of Palmyra—known locally as Tadmur—is situated in a strategically important area on the road between the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

Nearby, the monumental ruins of the ancient city rise out of the desert. UNESCO and others consider the site one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

  Systematic Destruction of Heritage

Irina Bokova, the head of UNESCO, told the AP on Friday that IS in Syria and Iraq was engaged in the “most brutal, systematic” destruction of ancient sites since World War II.

Her warning came hours after the group demolished the Saint Elian Monastery, which housed a fifth-century tomb and served as a major pilgrimage site, in the town of Qaryatain in central Syria, Aljazeera reported.

In May, Bokova called on Syrian troops and IS to spare Palmyra, saying it “represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people and the world”.

In January, they ransacked the central library in the Iraqi city of Mosul, burning thousands of books.

A month later, a video emerged showing the destruction of ancient artifacts at the central museum in Mosul.

In March, IS used explosives and bulldozers on Nimrud, one of Iraq’s greatest archeological treasures. Shortly after, they destroyed the ruins at Hatra.