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Palmyra

The Islamic State has blown up another ancient landmark

The group blew up the Arch of Triumph in Palmyra.

ISLAMIC STATE EXTREMISTS have blown up the famous Arch of Triumph in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s head of antiquities said, as the jihadists press their campaign to tear down the treasured heritage site.

The militants have carried out a sustained campaign of destruction against heritage sites in areas under their control in Syria and Iraq, and in mid-August beheaded Palmyra’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.

Syrian antiquities director Maamun Abdulkarim warned of impending catastrophe in the UNESCO-listed world heritage site, which the jihadists have been dismantling since capturing the ruins in May.

“This is a systematic destruction of the city. They want to raze it completely,” Abdulkarim told AFP.

“They want to destroy the amphitheatre, the colonnade. We now fear for the entire city,” he added, calling on the international community to “find a way to save Palmyra”.

Known as the “Pearl of the Desert”, the ancient oasis town of Palmyra situated about 210 kilometres northeast of Damascus became famous as a stopping point for caravans travelling on the Silk Road.

Both the citadel and the ruins are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and before the war around 150,000 tourists a year visited Palmyra.

Sunni extremist group IS has already destroyed the shrine of Baal Shamin and the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, regarded as Palmyra’s masterpiece, as part of a campaign to destroy pre-Islamic monuments, tombs and statues it considers idolatrous.

Experts say the militants have used the destruction to raise their profile to attract new recruits, and are also funding their “caliphate” by selling artifacts on the black market.

Syria’s archaeology association, the APSA, says that more than 900 monuments and archeological sites have been looted, damaged or destroyed during the four-year civil war.

© AFP, 2015

Read: Islamic State releases photos of how it blew up historic temple

Read: UN satellite images prove Palmyra temple was blown up

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