Islamic militants blow up two ancient tombs

DAMASCUS - Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters have destroyed two ancient Muslim mausoleums, Syria's antiquities director said yesterday.

Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim said ISIS militants blew up the tombs of Mohammed bin Ali, a descendant of Prophet Muhammad's cousin, and Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine, a religious figure from Palmyra, three days ago.

Mohammed bin Ali's burial place is located in a mountainous region 4km north of the historic city of Palmyra in central Syria.

Photos published by ISIS depicted two armed men carrying canisters, apparently filled with explosives, walking up the rocky hill to the site.

Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine's tomb, nestled in a leafy oasis about 500m from Palmyra's ancient ruins, is said to be more than five centuries old.

ISIS has destroyed at least 50 mausoleums dating between 100 and 200 years old in the regions under its control in north and east Syria, the antiquities director said.

"They consider these Islamic mausoleums to be against their beliefs and they ban all visits to these sites," Dr Abdulkarim said.

Ten days ago, fighters from the militant group also destroyed a number of tombstones at a cemetery for Palmyra residents, Dr Abdulkarim told AFP. "All tombs with marble designs were destroyed. For them, graves should not be visible," he said.

The extremist group captured Palmyra, a renowned Unesco World Heritage site, from pro-government forces on May 21.

At the weekend, ISIS planted mines and bombs in the ancient part of Palmyra.

It was unclear whether the group was preparing to destroy the ancient ruins or had planted the mines to deter government forces from advancing towards the city, also known as Tadmur.

Syria's army has advanced in recent days west of the city, near key oil and gas fields.

Meanwhile, ISIS has released a new seven-minute-long video documenting its sadistic murder of prisoners.

The footage was divided into three sections, with a different horrific punishment for each group of prisoners.

In the first part of the clip, five prisoners were drowned by locking them in a metal cage and lowering them into a swimming pool, the Daily Mail reported.

Filmed in the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, the footage includes the use of underwater cameras to film the terrified men's last moments.

Afterwards, the cage was lifted back out of the water, with the men lying motionless, piled on top of one another in the cage.

Elsewhere in the video, ISIS militants were seen locking prisoners into a car and then shooting them with a rocket launcher.

In another ghastly murder scene, a group is seen chaining a set of prisoners together with explosive necklaces, which are then detonated.

The film includes interviews with the prisoners, who spoke about the crimes they were accused of and how they had been treated by the ISIS militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Islamic militants blow up two ancient tombs'. Print Edition | Subscribe