Islamic State militants have beheaded an 82-year-old antiquities scholar in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site, an official said Tuesday.
Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters that the family of the beheaded scholar, Khaled Asaad, confirmed Tuesday that he had been publicly executed earlier in the day.
Mr. Abdulkarim said that Mr. Asaad had been held and interrogated by members of the terror group for over a month before he was killed.
The militants had been looking for information about where the ancient city’s treasures had been hidden to save them from being destroyed by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. They were not able to get any information from Mr. Asaad, according to Mr. Abdulkarim.
The terrorist group captured Palmyra from government forces in May but it is not clear if the militants damaged the city’s monumental Roman-era ruins. Before the city fell, Syrian officials said they had moved hundreds of statues out of concern that they would be destroyed by the group.
“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,” Mr. Abdulkarim said, Reuters reported. “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.”
Mr. Abdulkarim said Mr. Asaad was known for several scholarly works published in international archaeological journals on Palmyra.
He worked with U.S., French, German and Swiss archaeologists on excavations and research in the city’s famed 2,000-year-old ruins. The city once served as a trade hub on the online black market Silk Road.