Islamic State militants have beheaded an 83-year-old antiquities expert in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Mamoun Abdel-Karim, Syria’s head of antiquities, said Wednesday.
Khalid al-Asaad was killed on Tuesday, a month after the militants arrested him in Palmyra, home to ruins of a 2,000-year-old city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. He was accused of supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, visiting Iran and hiding two tons of gold, Abdel-Karim said by phone from Damascus.
Al-Asaad’s head was tied to an ancient Roman pole he had placed in Palymra’s center, with a list of the accusations against him, Abdel-Karim said. Al-Asaad oversaw Palmyra’s antiquities for about 40 years before retiring 13 years ago, he added.
“It’s one the most horrendous atrocities committed by these criminals,” Abdel-Karim said.
Islamic State militants swept through Palmyra in May, looting hotels and artifacts and killing regime supporters.
Syria has more than 10,000 archaeological sites left by the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and other civilizations. Many have been destroyed or damaged during four years of fighting.