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Saturday 21 April 2018

IS 'destroys archaeological pieces'

Islamic State razed two Unesco world heritage sites in March
Islamic State razed two Unesco world heritage sites in March

Islamic State says it has destroyed six archaeological pieces from the historic Syrian town of Palmyra after they were confiscated from a smuggler.

An IS statement said the six busts were found when the smuggler was stopped at a checkpoint.

The issue was referred to an Islamic court which ordered they be destroyed and the man be whipped.

Photographs released by the group showed IS fighters destroying the busts with large hammers.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was unclear if the busts were authentic or if the militants destroyed fake busts as a cover for the IS group's own antiquities smuggling.

In March, IS members in Iraq razed 3,000-year-old Nimrod and bulldozed 2,000-year-old Hatra - both Unesco world heritage sites.

While there is no firm evidence of the amount of money being made by IS from looting antiquities, satellite photos and anecdotal evidence confirm widespread plundering of archaeological sites in areas under IS control.

The militants captured the historic Syrian town of Palmyra in May from government forces. Many fear that the group will damage the town's archaeological sites as they did in neighbouring Iraq earlier this year.

Palmyra's Unesco world heritage site is famous for its 2,000-year-old Roman colonnades, other ruins and priceless artefacts. Before Syria's conflict began in 2011, tens of thousands of tourists visited the remote desert outpost, a cherished landmark referred to by Syrians as the "Bride of the Desert".

The Sunni extremists, who have imposed a violent interpretation of shariah law in the territories they control in Syria and Iraq, believe ancient relics promote idolatry.

IS militants also recently destroyed a lion statue dating back to the 2nd century in Palmyra, said Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Syrian government's Antiquities and Museums Department.

He said the statue, discovered in 1977, had stood at the gate of the town's museum, and had been placed inside a metal box to protect it from damage.

Press Association

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