Gruesome reports of the beheading of a leading scholar in Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city, surfaced Wednesday. The news indicates ISIS had murdered the 83-year-old after he refused to lead the terrorists to the location of precious artifacts.
According to the New York Times, the Islamic State has beheaded 83-year-old retired director of antiquities, Khalid al-Asaad. The expert was a leading authority in archaeological sites and respected worldwide for his knowledge.
Before he retired, al-Assad was also the chief overseer of the Palmyra ancient ruins and the person who authorized researchers, who wanted to spend more than five years studying the city, access to its treasures. Experts were extremely concerned that, when ISIS entered the Syrian city, they would destroy the unique artifacts.
“Anyone who wanted to do anything in Palmyra had to work though Khalid al-Asaad,” said Amr al-Azm, a Syrian professor of Middle Eastern history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. “He was Mr. Palmyra.”
Al-Asaad was detained by extremists when ISIS took control of the city in May of this year. According to Syrian authorities and humanitarian groups the scholar was beheaded in Palmyra, his beloved city.
“A photo distributed on social media by Islamic State supporters showed Mr. Asaad’s blood-soaked body suspended by its wrists with string from a traffic light. His head had been cut off and was resting on the ground between his feet, his glasses still on.”
Several news organizations are reporting that al-Assad refused to tell ISIS terrorists holding him captive where he had hidden irreplaceable relics.
Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said al-Asaad’s family had informed him that the scholar, who had been held for over month, was beheaded in Palmyra on Tuesday, according to the Guardian.
“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. 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.”
The Palmyra beheading, which was committed in front of dozens of witnesses by way of example — is the latest atrocity committed by ISIS which continues its reign of terror in the Middle East. Despite fears that the militants would destroy the city like they have similar sites in Iraq, they haven’t, and experts believe they are using it as a shield to avoid aerial bombings by the U.S.-led coalition. Scholars around the world are mourning the loss of al-Asaad.
[Image via James Gordon / Wikipedia]