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'Islamic State' militants plant explosives at Palmyra's ancient ruins

"Islamic State" militants have laid bombs at the ancient ruins in Syria's Palmyra, a monitoring group has said. The move has raised fears after the jihadists destroyed ancient sculptures from Babylonian times in Iraq.

Insurgents of the "Islamic State" (IS) were planting landmines and explosive, possibly to destroy ancient structures in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.

"They have planted it yesterday. They also planted some around the Roman theater [pictured above], we still do not know the real reason," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based group, told reporters.

"But it is not known if the purpose is to blow up the ruins or to prevent regime forces from advancing into the town," he added, explaining that Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces were trying to wrench the city out of the Islamists' hands.

Geschichte Zenobia, die arabische Heldin

Zenobia, the legendary queen of ancient Palmyra

Syria's head of antiquities, Mamoun Abdulkarim, also said the news of IS planting bombs in Palmyra's historical locations seemed true and that the city was a "hostage in their hands."

IS seized control over Palmyra exactly a month ago, on May 21. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has temples and Greco-Roman colonnades that are over 2,000 years old.

The militants destroyed several priceless sculptures and a museum housing treasures of the Babylonian empire in Iraq's Hatra earlier this year. Palmyra's capture raised fears that the historical city, also known as Tadmur, may suffer the same fate.

The violent Islamist extremists see the ancient sculptures and monuments as anti-Islamic. The militants have captured vast areas of Iraq and Syria and aim to establish an Islamic caliphate based on an extreme interpretation of the Sharia law.

mg/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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