24 Aug 2015

Palmyra temple ‘blown up by Islamic State’

Islamic State militants have destroyed Palmyra’s ancient temple of Baalshamin, Syria’s head of antiquities tells Channel 4 News.

Above: Ruins from the ancient city of Palmyra, pictured in 2014.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement on Sunday that IS fighters had detonated “large quantities of explosives” around the temple of Baalshamin around one month ago.

Maamoun Abdul-Karim, the head of Syria’s Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, also said that the temple had been damaged but claimed that the bombing happened on Sunday.

The temple of Baalshamin was built more than 2,000 years ago and was dedicated to the Phoenician god Baalshamin.

Professor Abdul-Karim told Channel 4 News: “I received today conformation of the destruction of the temple of Bahs in Palmyra yesterday.

“ISIS destroyed this temple. Why yesterday? Why now? It’s propaganda. What we have is new information about the barbaric mentality of these groups now in Palmyra. We are shocked. It is bad and very sad news. We are very afraid today.”

The Islamic State group took control of Palmyra in May this year, sparking fears that militants would destroy large portions of the site as they have done with other historical areas they control in Syria and Iraq.

The militant group believe that any shrine or statue implying the existence of another deity should be destroyed.

Last week it emerged that 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, who had looked after the Palmyra site for the past four decades, had been executed by Islamic State fighters.

Much of the site’s treasures and most precious artefacts were moved to the relative safety of the city of Damascus before Palmyra fell to Islamic State militants. Mr al-Asaad refused to reveal where the artefacts had been taken to, and so Islamic State fighters killed him.