ISIS uses Palmyra site to execute three people

ISIS executes three people in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra by binding them to three historic columns and blowing them up.

Ben Ariel ,

Ancient Palmyra
Ancient Palmyra

The Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group has executed three people in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra by binding them to three historic columns and blowing them up, a monitoring group said Monday, according to AFP.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said ISIS on Sunday "tied three individuals it had arrested from Palmyra and its outskirts to the columns... and executed them by blowing up" three columns.

Khaled al-Homsi, an activist from Palmyra, said ISIS had yet to inform local residents who the executed individuals were or why they had been killed.

"There was no one there to see (the execution). The columns were destroyed and IS has prevented anyone from heading to the site," Homsi, who works with the local Palmyra Coordination Committee activist group, told AFP.

Mohammad al-Ayed, also an activist from Palmyra, said the columns were "archeological, and there are many like them still present in Palmyra."

"ISIS is doing this for the media attention, so that IS can say that it is the most villainous, and so it can get people's attention," al-Ayed told AFP.

The Islamic State group has captured swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria to create a self-styled "caliphate" where it enforces an extreme form of Islamic rule.

The group has destroyed artifacts not just in Palmyra but in other areas of Syria as well. ISIS considers these pre-Islamic artifacts to be idolatrous.

In June, Islamic State blew up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which they regarded as pagan and sacrilegious.

ISIS also destroyed the Baal Shamin temple at Palmyra in late August and, a week later, destroyed the Temple Bel in the city, another heritage site.

ISIS has used Palmyra's grand amphitheatre for a massacre in which child members of the group killed 25 Syrian soldiers, execution-style, in front of residents.

It also beheaded Palmyra's 82-year-old former antiquities director in August.

Palmyra's ruins are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and before the war around 150,000 tourists a year visited the town.

Experts say the jihadists have used the destruction to raise their profile to attract new recruits, and are also funding their "caliphate" by selling treasures on the black market.

The group’s destruction of artifacts was also condemned by UNESCO in early July, and the organization described it at the time as an attempt to strip the people of their heritage in order "to enslave them".