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Islamic State beheads elderly ex-antiquities chief

Posted in World

Published on August 21, 2015 with No Comments

The Islamic State group has beheaded the 82-year-old retired chief archaeologist of Palmyra, who refused to leave the ancient city when the jihadists captured it, Syria`s antiquities chief said. A UNESCO World Heritage site famed for well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, Palmyra was seized from government forces in May amid fears IS might destroy its priceless heritage as it had done in other parts of Syria and Iraq.

Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told media that he had urged Khaled al-Assaad to leave Palmyra, but he had refused. “He told us `I am from Palmyra and I will stay here even if they kill me.`” Abdulkarim said Assaad was executed in Palmyra, in central Homs province. “Daesh has executed one of Syria`s most important antiquities experts,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS, reported media from England. Photos purporting to show Assaad`s body tied to a post in Palmyra were circulated online by IS supporters.

The execution is one of hundreds that have been carried out by IS in and around Palmyra since they took the city in May. “He was the head of antiquities in Palmyra for 50 years and had been retired for 13 years,” Abdulkarim said.

So far, Palmyra`s most famous sites have been left intact, though there are reports IS has mined them, and the group reportedly destroyed a famous statue of a lion outside the city`s museum in June.

Most of the pieces in the museum were evacuated by antiquities staff before IS arrived, though the group has blown up several historic Muslim graves.

IS has also executed hundreds of people in the city and surrounding area, many of them government employees.

The group also infamously used child members to shoot dead 25 Syrian government soldiers in Palmyra`s ancient amphitheatre.


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