Historic temple left in ruins

A photographer holds up his picture of the Temple of Bel taken two years ago, in front of the remains of the historic temple after it was destroyed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants last September in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured Palmyra on Sunday, after a fierce offensive to rescue the city from extremists who view the Unesco-listed site's magnificent ruins as idolatrous.

The renowned Temple of Bel is not beyond repair, but the full extent of damage could take weeks to establish because of mines laid amid the ruins, Syria's antiquities chief said.

Satellite pictures taken after the 2,000-year-old temple was dynamited by the militant group, and other images broadcast since Syrian government forces retook the city on Sunday, show almost the entire structure collapsed in a heap of rubble.

It was one of several important monuments blown up in the city last year, including the temple of Baal Shamin, a victory arch and funerary towers. The city museum, home to treasured artefacts, was ransacked and statues were smashed or defaced.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Historic temple left in ruins'. Print Edition | Subscribe