Damascus, Syria – Militants of the Islamic State group (IS/ISIS) beheaded a prominent Syrian antiquities scholar in the ancient city of Palmyra, then strapped his body from one of the city’s Roman columns, local sources reported on Wednesday.
The killing of 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad was the latest atrocity perpetrated by the militant group. Since IS overran Palmyra in May, there have been fears the extremists, who have destroyed famed archaeological sites in Iraq, would demolish its 2000-year-old Roman-era city, one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the Middle East.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported that al-Assad was beheaded on Tuesday in a square outside the city’s museum.
Activists said that the killing took place in public, where dozens of people stood witnesses.
The Syrian archeologist was arrested by IS militants nearly one month ago.
After his execution, al-Assad’s body was taken to Palmyra’s archaeological site and hung from one of the Roman columns, Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, told SANA.
“Al-Asaad was one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th century,” Abdulkarim said.
“The radical group had tried to extract information from him about where some of the city’s treasures had been hidden to save them from the militants.”
“Al-Asaad had been in charge of Palmyra’s archaeological site for nearly four decades until 2003, when he retired. After retiring, al-Asaad worked as an expert with the Antiquities and Museums Department,” the source said.
In early July, IS released a video showing the killing of some 20 captured government soldiers in Palmyra’s amphitheatre. They were shot dead by young IS members, armed with pistols. Hundreds of people were seen watching the killings.
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