BEIRUT: The militants owing allegiance to Daesh, or ISIS have massacred 400 people, including women and children, during their onslaught on the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, news reports said on Sunday.
Sunday’s carnage inside the historic city, which is home to renowned Roman-era ruins including well-preserved temples, colonnades and a theater, came two days after capturing the ancient city and is latest by the extreemist rebels who hold sway in vast swaths of Iraq and Syria and are rapidly spreading to nreighbouring states.
The rebels seized the city of 50,000 people, site of some of the world’s most extensive and best preserved ruins, on Wednesday, days after also capturing the city of Ramadi in neighboring Iraq.
The ISIS has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory they hold in both Syria and Iraq. They have a history of carrying out mass killings in towns and cities they capture, and of destroying ancient monuments which they consider evidence of paganism.
“The terrorists have killed more than 400 people.. and mutilated their bodies, under the pretext that they cooperated with the government and did not follow orders,” Syria’s state news agency SANA said, quoting residents inside the city.
It added that dozens of those killed were state employees, including the head of nursing department at the hospital and all her family members.
ISIS supporters have posted videos on the Internet they say show fighters going room to room in government buildings searching for government troops and civilian sympathisers.
UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that hundreds of bodies were lying in the streets across the city.
Earlier reports said the rebels had stationed armed guards outside the Palmyra museum after destroying a number of modern plaster statues and raising their black flag on the ancient castle overlooking the citys world heritage site.
Syrias Antiquities Director Mamoun Abdulkarim said on Saturday that most of the museums statues and artifacts have been transferred from the city, “but there are still large items, like the sarcophagi, which weigh three or four tones and we could not move.”
In April, the ISIS released a video showing its activists destroying artifacts at Iraqs ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud before blowing up a part of the site. In February, the rebels smashed ancient statues at the Ninawa museum in Mosul, using sledgehammers and drills.
The ISIS have also razed to the ground a number of mosques and shrines in Syria and Iraq, many of them dating back to the early years of the Islamic civilization.
Meanwhile, the UN cultural agency has warned that ISISs demolition of the world heritage site would be an “enormous loss to humanity.”
“Palmyra is an extraordinary World Heritage site in the desert and any destruction to Palmyra [would be] not just a war crime but … an enormous loss to humanity,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova on Thursday.
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