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IS hunts down soldiers in Palmyra

Published 22/05/2015

As many as 280 soldiers and pro-government forces have been killed in Palmyra since it was captured on Wednesday, activists say
As many as 280 soldiers and pro-government forces have been killed in Palmyra since it was captured on Wednesday, activists say
A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EIDJOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
This picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, shows a tank with Islamic State group fighters clashing with Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
In this picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by the website of Islamic State militants, Islamic State fighters take cover during a battle against Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
This picture released on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 on the website of Islamic State militants, shows black columns of smoke rising through the air during a battle between Islamic State militants and the Syrian government forces on a road between Homs and Palmyra, Syria. Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq. (The website of Islamic State militants via AP)
(FILES) - A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a sculpture depicting a rich family from the ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus, displayed at the city's museum. Hundreds of statues and ancient artifacts from Palmyra's museum have been transferred out of the city as Islamic State (IS) group jihadists threaten the historic treasures after they took full control of Palmyra on May 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EIDJOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a sculpture found in the ancient Syrian oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus, displayed at the city's museum. Hundreds of statues and ancient artifacts from Palmyra's museum have been transferred out of the city as Islamic State (IS) group jihadists threaten the historic treasures after they took full control of Palmyra on May 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the citadel (background) of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus, over looking the city. Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized full control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on May 21, 2015, a monitor said, putting the world heritage site at risk of destruction. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EIDJOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A file picture taken on May 18, 2015 shows the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city, killing several people. Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized full control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on May 21, 2015, a monitor said, putting the world heritage site at risk of destruction. AFP PHOTO /STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
A general view taken on May 18, 2015 shows the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city, killing several people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed "the pearl of the desert". AFP PHOTO /STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images
A general view taken on May 18, 2015 shows the castle of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a day after Islamic State (IS) group jihadists fired rockets into the city and killing five people. Fierce clashes have rocked Palmyra's outskirts since IS launched an offensive on May 13 to capture the 2,000-year-old world heritage site nicknamed "the pearl of the desert". AFP PHOTO /STRSTR/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic State militants have been searching through the Syrian town of Palmyra for government troops and fighters, and activists estimate at least 150 have been killed in the past two days.

IS fighters have been using lists of names and informers to track targets down and have shot some dead on the spot, activists said.

The purge is part of a clampdown by the extremist group to solidify its grip on the town since overrunning it late on Wednesday.

The militants have also imposed a curfew from 5pm until sunrise and banned people from leaving town until tomorrow morning to ensure none of the government figures they seek manage to escape, activists and officials said.

The door-to-door hunt for opponents is similar to a purge the militants carried out in the Iraqi city of Ramadi after capturing it last week.

"The search is going from house to house, shop to shop and people on the streets have to show identity cards," said Osama al-Khatib, an activist from Palmyra who is in Turkey.

Mr al-Khatib last contacted his friends and relatives in Palmyra this morning before the government cut off all land and mobile telephones as well as internet service in the town.

IS fighters have also detained dozens of suspects after seizing Palmyra, which is home to one of the Middle East's most famous archaeological sites, activists and officials said.

Homs-based activist Bebars al-Talawy and an opposition Facebook page said that as many as 280 soldiers and pro-government militiamen have been killed in Palmyra since it was captured on Wednesday.

Mr al-Talawy said militants abducted soldiers and pro-government gunmen from homes, shops and other places where they had sought to hide. He added that many were shot dead in the streets.

He said IS fighters used loudspeakers to warn residents against sheltering troops, leading many to come forward to give information about forces who had melted into the civilian population.

Mr al-Khatib said 150 bodies lay in the streets of Palmyra, including 25 members of the pro-government militia known as the Popular Committees who were Palmyra residents.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museum Department in the Syrian capital Damascus, said: "There are arrests and liquidations in Palmyra."

He added that IS fighters are "moving in residential areas, terrifying people and taking revenge".

Mr Abdulkarim said no gunmen were seen in the area of Palmyra's 2,000-year-old ruins, which once attracted thousands of tourists.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS fighters have killed 17 men in Palmyra and that it has unconfirmed reports of the killing of dozens more. The Local Co-ordination Committees said IS fighters have killed dozens of people since Wednesday, including three siblings, two teenage girls and a teenage boy.

Governor Talal Barazi of the central province of Homs, which includes Palmyra, said IS fighters have abducted men and "might have committed massacres". He added that about 1,400 families left the town of 65,000 before IS started preventing people from leaving yesterday.

A video posted on a pro-IS Facebook page showed residents and militants gathering around two bloodied men in military uniforms on a Palmyra street. "Let all the residents see them," one of the men in the gathering tells an IS fighter.

The Observatory and Mr al-Talawy said IS's next target appears to be the Tayfour air base near Palmyra, where many of the government troops retreated. They said IS was sending reinforcements to the air base area.

Mr al-Talawy and Mr al-Khatib said IS had also captured over the past day the phosphate mines at Khunayfis, near Palmyra.

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