IS Begins Destruction of Palmyra

IS Begins Destruction of Palmyra
IS Begins Destruction of Palmyra

IS militants have blown up two ancient tombs they consider sacrilegious in Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site in central Syria which was seized by IS in May, the group said on Tuesday.

The report was the first of any damage being done by the militants to buildings in Palmyra since they seized control of the city, also known as Tadmur, in May. Syrian forces have bombed the city, and the militants camped within it, since then, CBC News reported.

Before-and-after pictures posted online showed several militants carrying explosives, and two mausoleums, which are not among the city’s monumental Roman-era buildings, reduced to rubble.

Al Arabiya News reported that the sites destroyed were the tombs of Mohammed bin Ali, a descendant of a cousin of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and Nizar Abu Bahaeddin, a Sufi scholar.

“All tombs with marble designs were destroyed. For them [ISIS], graves should not be visible,” Syria’s antiquities director, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told Reuters. “The city is a hostage in their hands; the situation is dangerous.”

Syrian antiquities chief Abdul Maamoun Abdulkarim said, “In all the areas where they spread when they see tombs, they destroy them as they see them as sacrilegious and a return to paganism.”

Hundreds of statues had been moved from the city to safe locations, before the militants, who control large swathes of Iraq and Syria, took over, he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said this week that the militants had planted mines in Palmyra but that it was not clear whether they were preparing to destroy the site or wanted to deter government forces from advancing toward it.

Militants fighting for IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have blown up dozens of shrines in Iraq and Syria, many belonging to the Sufi sect, a mystical school of Islam opposed by puritanical Salafists from which IS and al-Qaeda draw many of its fighters.