Islamic State Militants Destroy Sufi Shrines in Eastern Syria

Attacks in eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor are added to dozens of strikes by Sunni Muslim group on shrines, tombs and Shi'ite Muslim mosques.

Girls play on a swing in a damaged street full of debris in Deir al-Zor May 21, 2013.
Girls play on a swing in a damaged street full of debris in Deir al-Zor May 21, 2013. Reuters

REUTERS - Islamic State militants have destroyed several Sufi Muslim shrines and tombs in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

The Sunni Muslim group, which enforces a strict interpretation of Islamic law in territories under its control in Iraq and Syria, has destroyed dozens of shrines, tombs and Shi'ite Muslim mosques.

Sites affiliated with the Sufi sect, a mystical school of Islam opposed by puritanical Salafists from which Islamic State draws its members, have been among the group's main targets.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest destruction included two shrines and two tombs devoted to Sufi sheikhs, all in Deir al-Zor province, which is almost entirely controlled by Islamic State militants.

In March, Islamic State militants bombed the mosque of Ammar bin Yassir and Oweis al-Qarni, once a destination for Shi'ite pilgrims from Iran, Lebanon and Iraq in the eastern city of Raqqa, which is under the group's control.

They have also destroyed sites in the Iraqi city of Mosul, including statues of cultural icons and the tomb of a medieval philosopher.

The Observatory, which monitors Syria's conflict through a network of sources in the country, also said at least eight Islamic State fighters were killed and more than 40 wounded in Syrian government air strikes targeting a training camp west of Deir al-Zor city.

The United States has been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State in neighbouring Iraq and U.S. President Barack Obama this week raised the prospect of also striking the group in Syria.