28 Mar 2016

Damage to Palmyra not as bad as feared

5:55 pm on 28 March 2016

New images have emerged from Palmyra, hours after Syrian troops recaptured it from the Islamic State group (IS).]

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Palmyra was not as damaged as first thought. Photo: AFP

The pictures reveal the extent of destruction wrought by the group during their 10-month occupation of the Unesco World Heritage site.

While some treasured monuments have been destroyed, much of the ancient city's ruins are said to remain intact.

Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said authorities had been "expecting the worst".

But he told AFP that "the landscape, in general, is in good shape".

President Bashar al-Assad hailed the recapture of Palmyra from IS as an "important achievement" in the "war on terrorism".

Military sources say the Syrian army now has "full control" after days of fighting backed by Russian air strikes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Mr Assad, a Kremlin spokesman said.

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IS destroyed 2000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers in Palmyra. Photo: AFP

The Kremlin said President Assad knew the Palmyra operation "would have been impossible without Russia's support".

IS seized the Unesco World Heritage site and modern town in May 2015. Soon after, they killed the archaeologist who looked after the ruins for 40 years.

Palmyra is situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

When IS seized the city it destroyed archaeological sites, provoking global outrage. Two 2000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers were left in ruins.

The jihadist group, which has also demolished several pre-Islamic sites in neighbouring Iraq, believes that such structures are idolatrous.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said at least 400 IS fighters were killed in the battle for Palmyra.

In a statement released on Saturday, Russia's defence ministry said its strikes hit 158 IS targets, killing more than 100 militants.

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Photo: AFP

- BBC

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