Official says IS is destroying ancient tombs in Syria’s Palmyra

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Smoke billows from the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria on May 19, 2015. Photo: CCTV.

The general director of Syrian antiquities and museums said on Wednesday the Islamic State (IS) militants started destroying tombs in the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.

The ISIL blew up two Islamic tombs and a statue in the millennia-old oasis city of Palmyra in the eastern countryside of the central province of Homs, Mamoun Abdulkarim told Xinhua.

The first tomb, located atop a hill overlooking Palmyra, belonged to Muhammad Bin Ali, a descent of Imam Ali Bin Abi Taleb, the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The second was a 500-year-old tomb that belonged to one of the famous Islamic figures, known as Abu Baha Addien.

The ISIL militants also destroyed a big statue of a lion standing at the gate of the Palmyra museum, according to Abdulkarim.

“This terrorist group destroyed tombs wherever they go in the north and east, because they deem the tomb something against the Islamic sharia,” Abdulkarim said, adding that 90 percent of the tombs in northern and eastern Syria have been destroyed by ISIL so far.

Abdulkarim urged the international community to play a “real role” to protect Palmyra and prevent the re-occurrence of what happened in Iraq where ISIL destroyed ancient cities.

On June 21, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the IS militants had rigged the old city of Palmyra with explosives.

The ISIL militants planted mines and explosive devices in the ancient part of Palmyra, where 2,000-year-old monuments and temples are located, the UK-based watchdog group added.

Last month, ISIL detonated a military prison in Palmyra, just days after capturing the city.

Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, contains monumental ruins of a city that was one of the most important cultural centers in ancient times.

Story compiled with information from Xinhua.