08/19/2015, 00.00
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Palmyra: Islamic State beheads Syrian archaeologist

Khaled Asaad had worked at Palmyra for over 50 years, leading excavations with international groups and discovering countless artefacts. The presence of the militia extremists a "curse" for Palmyra.

Beirut (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Khaled Asaad, head of the Palmyra museum has been beheaded by militants of the Islamic State, who then hung his body from a column in archaeological site's main square.

The news was disclosed by Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of museums in Syria, who received the news from  the dead man's relatives.

Khaled Asaad, 82, has worked for 50 years at the archaeological site of Palmyra, and published many studies on the subject. He had also worked with international groups from France, Germany, Switzerland, the United States at the site considered  a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO.

Abdulkarim said that the scholar had been taken a month ago by militiamen and the Sunni extremists interrogated him continuously until his execution, which took place yesterday.

The militiamen of the Islamic state have occupied the archaeological site last May. In extending their rule in Syria and Iraq, they have destroyed many ancient artefacts and monuments, considered "heathen" and "idolatrous". So far no one knows how many artifacts or buildings have been destroyed in Palmira, a site that dates back to Roman times.

UNESCO said that the destruction of Palmyra would be "a great loss for humanity."

Yesterday, Maamoun Abdulkarim said that " The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on [Palmyra] and every column and every archaeological piece in it."

Before the occupation by the Islamic state, Syrian officials had moved hundreds of ancient statues to safe areas, for fear that militants could destroy them. Last June, the Islamic state blew up two ancient temples in Palmyra, not part of the structures of the Roman era.

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