20 May 2015

Palmyra historic city ‘taken by Islamic State fighters’

Islamic State militants group claim they are in control of all of the Syrian city of Palmyra, home to one of the world’s most important heritage sites, vowing to destroy its priceless treasures.

This is the entire world’s battle: a stark warning from Syria which says “large numbers” of Islamic State militants have marched into one of the world’s biggest and most important heritage sites – Palmyra.

They say there have been fierce clashes among the ancient ruins – as the extremists were confronted by pro-government militia. Citizens are being evacuated from the city – the fate of its priceless artefacts are now anyone’s guess but Isis has vowed to destroy them and claims it controls the city now.

Islamic State fighters entered the centre of the city, near to the 2,000 year old Unesco World Heritage site.

IS militants have destroyed cultural sites across Iraq as they expanded their self-proclaimed caliphate, including important Shia mosques and shrines, and the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

Now it is feared the same fate could be in store for the monuments at Syria’s Palmyra, a city built up by the Romans in the mid-first century AD as an important trade hub between the Roman empire, Persia, India and China.

Map of Palmyra

Above: map shared by Islamic State-lined social media accounts of Palmyra

IS fighters marched into Palmyra over the weekend but were initially repelled by Syrian regime forces.

However, IS social media accounts say the extremist group has now taken control of the city.

A map shared by Islamic State linked social media accounts suggested earlier the group was holding large areas of the city.

A video posted online purports to show smoke rising over the city. An unidentified voice says the smoke is from “shelling by various types of weaponry which are targeting civilians in Palmyra city.”

Islamic State Twitter accounts have also posted pictures said to be of jihadis in northern Tadmor.

Statues from Palmyra

“Hundreds and hundreds” of statues were moved out of the city as the Islamic State marched towards Palmyra, also known as Tadmor.

“Hundreds and hundreds of statues we were worried would be smashed and sold are all now in safe places,” Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said.

“The fear is for the museum and the large monuments that cannot be moved.”