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Palmyra temple in Syria destroyed by Islamic State using explosives

Published 24/08/2015

Militants have reportedly blown up part of the Unesco World Heritage Site at Palmyra (AP)
Militants have reportedly blown up part of the Unesco World Heritage Site at Palmyra (AP)
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

The ancient temple of Baalshamin has been demolished by Islamic State militants who lay explosives around it for over a month, a resident in the Syrian city of Palmyra has confirmed.

The UN cultural watchdog Unesco called the destruction of the temple a "war crime" and an "immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity".

The witness, who goes by the name Nasser al-Thaer, said the bombing took place a day earlier. He said he feared for the other ancient sites in Palmyra but that no explosives have been placed around them.

News of the temple's destruction comes after relatives and witnesses said Khaled al-Asaad, an 81-year-old antiquities scholar who devoted his life to understanding Palmyra, was beheaded by Islamic State militants.

Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites and a Unesco World Heritage site, sits near the modern Syrian city of the same name.

IS claim ancient relics promote idolatry and say they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism. However, they are also believed to sell off looted antiquities .

The Baalshamin Temple is about 500 metres from Palmyra's famous amphitheater where the group killed more than 20 Syrian soldiers after they captured the historic town in May.

The temple dates to the first century and is dedicated to the Phoenician god of storms and fertilising rains.

Earlier reports from the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the temple was blown up a month ago. And Turkey-based activist Osama al-Khatib, who is originally from Palmyra, said the temple was blown up on Sunday.

The head of Unesco, Irina Bokova, said Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq are engaged in the "most brutal, systematic" destruction of ancient sites since the Second World War.

Militants have also demolished the St Elian Monastery, which housed a fifth-century tomb and served as a major pilgrimage site. The monastery was in the town of Qaryatain in central Syria.

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