Islamic State militants destroy ancient temple in Palmyra, Syria

News of the destruction of the temple of Baal Shamin, or "Lord of the Heavens," comes after last week's report that Islamic State militants publicly beheaded a renowned scholar of antiquities in Palmyra.
By Fred Lambert Contact the Author   |   Aug. 23, 2015 at 9:57 PM
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PALMYRA, Syria, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Islamic State militants have demolished the ancient temple of Baal Shamin, or "Lord of the Heavens," in Palmyra, Syria, according to reports.

Syria's head of antiquities and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the temple was destroyed, according to the BBC.

The militants packed the temple with explosives before destroying it more than a month ago, according to SOHR.

IS forces have in the past characterized such artifacts and ruins as "manifestations of polytheism."

The militants captured Palmyra in May after a back-and-forth struggle with the Syrian military and subsequently executed hundreds of people, including renowned scholar of antiquities Khalid al-Asaad, 82, who last week was reported to have been publicly beheaded by IS militants.

IS forces have since been destroying portions of the ruins, including two tombs on June 24. On June 21, the militants were reported to be planting improvised explosive devices and mines amid the ruins, possibly in anticipation of a Syrian army counterattack.

IS militants have been known to destroy other ancient sites they have captured, notably in Mosul, Iraq, where video footage in February showed them using sledgehammers, power drills and pickaxes to destroy priceless 3,000-year-old artifacts. In March, IS forces reportedly used a bulldozer to damage the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, in northern Iraq.

More recently, IS militants were reported on Aug. 21 to have destroyed a fifth-century Christian monastery in the city of al-Qaryatain, more than 70 highway miles west of Palmyra.

SOHR reports Syrian government airstrikes on Sunday hitting within the vicinity of Palmyra and al-Qaryatain.

The Syrian regime lost al-Qaryatain to IS forces on Aug. 6, and two days later Syrian state news reported airstrikes by the Syrian air force, which typically uses inaccurate barrel bombs, killed up to 30 IS militants in the city.

Since the capture of Palmyra and al-Qaryatain, SOHR reports hundreds of youths from both cities, which are in Homs province, have joined IS forces.

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