Thursday, May 28, 2015

ISIS ‘will not destroy’ Palmyra ruins, only statues

Footage released by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed the ruins of Syria’s Palmyra untouched as the militant group claimed it only destroy statues which it deems polytheistic, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Palmyra is home to a massive Roman theatre where ISIS reportedly executed 20 foreign fighters earlier this week who had been fighting alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

ISIS militants have reportedly executed at least 400 people in Palmyra since capturing the ancient Syrian city, Syrian state media said earlier this week.

ISIS captured Palmyra – and Iraq’s Ramadi – earlier this month despite months of U.S.-led airstrikes.

A YouTube account believed to be affiliated with ISIS posted a video on May 26 showing parts of the city’s ancient ruins and colonnades. It was not clear when the video was shot.

An activist with an anti-regime group in Palmyra said the ruins have not been damaged adding that ISIS said they would only destroy statues they deem idolatrous.

“They haven’t been damaged and members of the organization [ISIS] told residents that they will not damage the city’s antiquities, but will destroy the idols,” the activist with the anti-regime Local Coordination Committee for Tadmur, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.

“Perhaps it’s because the Palmyra antiquities are mostly columns and large buildings and not statues of people, which they consider idols that must be destroyed, and they have no problem with the other antiquities.”

Separately, an anti-regime radio station publishing an audio-only interview with the man believed to be leading ISIS’s advance in Palmyra, known to Syrians today as Tadmur.

Alwan FM published an audio interview purporting to be with Abu Laith al-Saoudy, the nom de guerre of the ISIS military commander in Palmyra, who pledged not to damage the site but said the group would destroy statues.

“Concerning the historic city, we will preserve it and it will not be harmed, God willing,” the man was heard saying.

“What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship.”

“The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think,” he added.

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