ISIS Militants Plant Explosives Around Ancient Syrian City Palmyra

It is unclear whether the Islamic State group intends to destroy ancient Roman ruins or to secure the site from advancing government forces.

Mariam Karouny
Syrians near Palmyra, in March. A region replete with ancient sites could become a sterile wasteland with no past.
Syrians near Palmyra, in March. A region replete with ancient sites could become a sterile wasteland with no past. Credit: AFP
Mariam Karouny

REUTERS - The Islamic State group has planted mines and bombs in the central Syrian city of Palmyra, home to Roman-era ruins, a group monitoring the war said on Sunday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not immediately clear whether the group was preparing to destroy the ancient ruins, or if it planted the mines to deter government forces from advancing towards the city.

"They have planted it yesterday. They also planted some around the Roman theatre, we still do not know the real reason," Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Observatory, told Reuters.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's head of antiquities, told Reuters that the report of ISIS planting explosives in Palmyra "seems true".

"The city is a hostage in their hands, the situation is dangerous", he said.

In May the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim group seized the city of 50,000 people, which is also known as Tadmur. It holds some of the world's most extensive and best-preserved ancient Roman ruins.

The Islamic State group has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims in the territory it holds in Syria and Iraq. ISIS militants have a history of carrying out mass killings in the towns and cities they capture and destroying any ancient monuments they consider evidence of paganism.

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