PALMYRA, Syria, June 24 (UPI) -- Islamic State militants destroyed two tombs in the ancient city of Palmyra -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- the Syrian government said Wednesday.
IS -- also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL -- took control of the central Syrian city in May. The location includes a massive archaeological site that dates back 2,000 years.
"ISIS has blown up two ancient Muslim shrines in Palmyra, and has published photos of this awful crime against the Syrian cultural heritage on Facebook," a statement from Syria's Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), said on the department's website.
One of the tombs was that of Mohammed bin Ali, a descendent of Ali bin Abi Taleb, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The tomb, located about 2.5 miles north of Palmyra, was destroyed over the weekend.
The other location was the shrine of Shagaf, or Abu Behaeddine, a religious figure who died 500 years ago. That tomb was located in the city's Arch of Triumph.
Last week the militants planted explosives at a number of sites in the ancient city.
The news comes amid clashes between IS and regime forces in the village of Jubb al-Jarrah, about 57 miles northeast of Palmyra, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The group said 19 IS militants were killed in the Homs province countryside Wednesday, along with three members of regime forces. Six civilians, including children, were injured.