Syrian archaeologist ‘beheaded in cold blood’

Islamic State targets octogenarian scholar, according to reports

August 19, 2015
Source: iStock
Part of the archaeological remains at Palmyra before Islamic State seized the site

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A leading Syrian archaeologist who devoted most of his career to the preservation of the ancient city of Palmyra is reported to have been beheaded by Islamic State militants.

Khaled al-Asaad was in charge of the celebrated antiquities and museum for four decades until he retired in 2003.

IS, which has already damaged a number of similar sites, took over the Unesco World Heritage Site in May. It has since destroyed statuary and shrines and released a video of Syrian government forces being executed in the theatre.

Dr al-Asaad seems to have stayed on in Palmyra in order to try to protect the archaeological remains, the future of which are very much in doubt, and to have been held by the group for a month.

On 18 August, the Syrian Arab News Service reported an announcement by Maamoun Abdul-Karim, director of the General Department of Antiquities and Museums.

Describing Dr al-Asaad as “one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th century” and citing “local sources in Palmyra city”, he said that “ISIS terrorists beheaded in cold blood the 80-year old archaeologist in the National Museum Square in the city and later crucified his body and hung him on colonnades in central Palmyra”.

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