BEIRUT: The Islamic State group “executed” 20 men in front of a crowd in the UNESCO-listed Roman theatre of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra on Wednesday, a monitor said.
Across the border the jihadists claimed to have abolished when they proclaimed their “caliphate” last year, thousands of Iraqi security forces and paramilitaries deployed across Anbar province.
Nearly a week after seizing strategic Palmyra, IS gathered 20 men they accused of fighting for the regime in the ruins of the theatre and shot them dead, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
“IS gathered a lot of people there on purpose, to show their force on the ground,” he said.
Syria’s antiquities director said he feared the killings were a harbinger of the much-dreaded destruction of the ancient site, considered one of the world’s greatest heritage jewels.
The jihadist group has damaged priceless historical sites across the region but mainly used its sledgehammers and dynamite on statues and places of worship it considers idolatrous.
IS seized Palmyra on May 21, a move analysts warned positioned the group to launch more ambitious attacks on Damascus and third city Homs.
According to the Observatory, it has over the past week executed at least 217 people, including 67 civilians, in and around the city.