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IS releases pics showing destruction of ancient temple in Palmyra

world Updated: Aug 25, 2015 19:57 IST

This undated photo released on August 25 shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP)

Just days after Islamic State militants blew up the 2000-year old temple of Baal Shamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra, one of the most important cultural sites, the group has published photos to show the destruction of the Roman-era temple, an act the Unesco has called a war crime.

Five photos were distributed on social media showing explosives being carried inside, being set around the walls of the temple, the large explosion and then rubble.

The militants blew up the temple of Baal Shamin on Sunday, according to the Syrian antiquities chief, but had not published pictures until now. Reuters could not independently verify the images.

This undated photo release by IS shows militants laying explosives in the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin, Palmyra. Unesco called the destruction of the temple a war crime. (Islamic State social media account via AP)

The temple was built nearly 2,000 years ago and Unesco has described it as a symbol of Syria's historical cultural diversity, which it says Islamic State is seeking to obliterate.

The destruction comes days after Islamic State was said to have beheaded an 82-year-old Syrian archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra's Unesco World Heritage ruins for four decades.

Syria's antiquities chief said last week Islamic State had beheaded Khaled al-Asaad and hung his body in public. Islamic State, which holds tracts of Syria and Iraq, seized the desert city of Palmyra in May from government forces but initially left its ancient sites undamaged.

It has carried out killings of people it accused of being government supporters in Palmyra's ancient amphitheatre, according to activists. Before the capture of the city, site of some of the world's most extensive and best-preserved Roman ruins, Syrian officials said they had moved hundreds of ancient statues to safe locations.

But they had voiced fears about the fate of large structures such as the temple.

Islamic State has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory it holds in both Syria and Iraq. Its militants have a history of carrying out mass killings in places they capture and of demolishing monuments which they consider pagan and idolatrous.

This photo release by IS shows explosives set to blow up the ancient temple. A resident of the city said the temple was destroyed on Sunday, a month after the group's militants booby-trapped it with explosives. (Islamic State social media account via AP)

Read: UN chief 'appalled' by Islamic State's demolition of Palmyra