When ISIS seized the ancient city of Palmyra in May, antiquities experts feared that their first move would be to destroy the 1st and 2nd century ruins in the Syrian town.
Now, they’ve beheaded the antiquities expert.
Khaled Assad, 81, was the former director general of Palmyra antiquities and museums, holding the position for four decades until his 2003 retirement. According to the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights, the archaeologist was arrested a month ago.
This week, they murdered him in the public square, then tied his body to a lightpost with hands at the top and his head resting at his feet. A photo was circulated online and a video is rumored to be in the works.
A sign was hung on Assad’s body listing the reasons for his beheading, the first being his attendance at “infidel” archaeological conferences as an official Syrian representative. They accused him of being the head of “idols” in the ancient city.
But some reported that, over the past month, ISIS tortured the archaeologist demanding to know where there were treasures that they could loot and sell. When he didn’t give them an answer, he was killed.
Last month, ISIS released photos of militants smashing a handful of statues in Palmyra with sledgehammers; they claimed they were simply punishing a smuggler. ISIS also destroyed a 2,000-year-old, 10-foot lion statue, and Syrian activists on the ground have reported the terrorists planting explosives around the ruins.
UNESCO has warned that ISIS is already trying to sell looted antiquities in markets including Europe, and “using the illicit trafficking, the selling of these objects in order to finance extremism and terrorism.”