ISIS Beheads Elderly Archeologist In Palmyra

The 82-year-old scholar worked for over five decades as the head of antiquities at the ancient site.DAMASCUS, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded an
antiquities scholar in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his
body on a column in a main square of the historic site, Syria's
antiquities chief said on Tuesday.

IS, whose insurgents control swathes of Syria and Iraq, captured
Palmyra in central Syria from government forces in May, but are not
known to have damaged its monumental Roman-era ruins despite their
reputation for destroying artifacts they view as idolatrous under their
puritanical interpretation of Islam.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said the family of
Khaled Asaad had informed him that the 82-year-old scholar who worked
for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra was executed by
Islamic State on Tuesday.

Asaad had been detained and interrogated for over a month by the ultra-radical Sunni Muslim militants, he told Reuters.

"Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to
the place and to history would be beheaded ... and his corpse still
hanging from one of the ancient columns in the center of a square in
Palmyra," Abdulkarim said.

"The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse
and bad omen on (Palmyra) and every column and every archaeological
piece in it."

Abdulkarim said Asaad was known for several scholarly works published
in international archaeological journals on Palmyra, which in antiquity
flourished as an important trading hub along the Silk Road.

He also worked over the past few decades with U.S., French, German
and Swiss archeological missions on excavations and research in
Palmyra's famed 2,000-year-old ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
including Roman tombs and the Temple of Bel.

Before the city's capture by Islamic State, Syrian officials said
they moved hundreds of ancient statues to safe locations out of concern
they would be destroyed by the militants.

In June, Islamic State did blow up two ancient shrines in Palmyra
that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which the militants
regarded as pagan and sacrilegious. (Reporting by Kinda Makeih in
Damascus Writing by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)