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Isis in Palmyra: Militants release first images showing destruction of Baalshamin Temple

Published 25/08/2015

Smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra (Islamic State social media account via AP)
Smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra (Islamic State social media account via AP)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Activists say Islamic State militants have destroyed a temple at Syria's ancient ruins of Palmyra. News that the militants blew up the Baalshamin Temple came after the extremists beheaded Palmyra scholar Khaled al-Asaad on Tuesday, hanging his bloodied body from a pole in the town's main square. (SANA via AP, File)
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Activists say Islamic State militants have destroyed a temple at Syria's ancient ruins of Palmyra. News that the militants blew up the Baalshamin Temple (not pictured) came after the extremists beheaded Palmyra scholar Khaled al-Asaad on Tuesday, hanging his bloodied body from a pole in the town's main square. (SANA via AP, File)
(FILES) - A file picture taken on January 13, 2009 shows a part of the ancient city of Palmyra. Islamic State group jihadists on August 23, 2015 blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the UNESCO-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities chief told AFP. AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOPHE CHARONCHRISTOPHE CHARON/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) - A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the courtyard of the sanctury of Baal Shamin in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group jihadists on August 23, 2015 blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the UNESCO-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities chief told AFP. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EIDJOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
FILES - A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the Temple of Baal Shamin seen through two Corinthian columns in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group jihadists on August 23, 2015 blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the UNESCO-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities chief told AFP. "Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple," said Maamoun Abdulkarim, using another name for IS. IS, which controls swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, captured Palmyra on May 21, sparking international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value". AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EIDJOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

The Isis militant group has released a series of images purporting to show the destruction of the ancient Baalshamin Temple in Palmyra.

Images posted online and shared by Isis-affiliated social media accounts showed fighters, whose faces were cropped out of the photographs, lining the 2,000-year-old monument with explosives.

Jihadists preparing explosives in the Baal Shamin temple in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra. AFP/Getty Images
Jihadists preparing explosives in the Baal Shamin temple in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra. AFP/Getty Images
Explosives in the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
Explosives in the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
Explosives placed on parts of columns of the Baal Shamin. AFP/Getty Images
Explosives placed on parts of columns of the Baal Shamin. AFP/Getty Images

Explosives can be seen wired together both inside and outside the structure of the building, which experts said was one of the best-preserved and most completely intact examples of Greco-Roman architecture at the ancient site.

Other pictures appeared to show the moment of the detonation, followed by the rubble left behind.

Experts have condemned Isis's destruction of ancient relics in the Syrian city, which was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1980.

Unesco's Director-General, Irina Bokova, said that the destruction of the Baalshamin Temple was "an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity". She said that Isis's practice of "cleansing" other cultures from the lands it occupies amounted to a "war crime".

Staff at the British Museum, who once worked with the now-executed antiquities chief of Palmyra Khaled Asaad, said they were "deeply distressed" by Isis's activities at the ancient site, once described as the Pearl of the Desert.

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Smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra (Islamic State social media account via AP)
Smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra (Islamic State social media account via AP)

Isis destroys ancient monastery in Syria  

Syria's national antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdulkarim, said Isis blew up the Baalshamin Temple on Sunday. Activists from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosives themselves may have been placed around the site as much as month beforehand.

Believed to date back to 17AD, the temple was 500 metres from Palmyra's famous amphitheater, where Isis murdered more than 20 captive Syrian soldiers after they took the historic town in May.

The demolished 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP)
The demolished 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP)

The temple was dedicated to Baalshamin, the Phoenician sky god associated with storms and fertilising rains – sometimes equated to the ancient Greek god Zeus.

The British writer and historian Tom Holland said: “I always feared Baalshamin’s temple was doomed. He was paired with Allat, the only deity to be mentioned in both Herodotus and the Koran – and condemned by name in the latter.”

Mr Abdulkarim said he and other experts had warned that Isis would not be satisfied with destroying just the statues it found in Palmyra.

He said: "We have said repeatedly the next phase would be one of terrorising people and when they have time they will begin destroying temples.

"I am seeing Palmyra being destroyed in front of my eyes."

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