The Islamic State (known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) laid mines and bombs around the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria this past Sunday, a monitoring group reported.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that it was unclear whether the explosives were planted in order to destroy Palmyra’s ruins or to counter government forces advancing into the city.
It has now been reported that two ancient Muslim shrines near Palmyra have been blown up. One was a tomb belonging to Mohammed bin Ali, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin, located about 2.5 miles north of Palmyra. The Shrine of Abu Bahaeddine, about a third of a mile from Palmyra’s ancient ruins, was also blown up.
“They consider these Islamic mausoleums to be against their beliefs, and they ban all visits to these sites,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Director of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, to AFP.
The palm tree-lined oasis of Palmyra served as a stopover for caravans traveling from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea in antiquity. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient city contains monumental structures from the Roman period.
In May, the extremist group seized the historic city of Palmyra. Since its rise, ISIS has been responsible for the destruction and looting of a number of sites in Iraq and Syria, including Aleppo, Nineveh and Nimrud.
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