Temple damage ‘difficult to determine’

A Syrian official in charge of antiquities said his government has not been able to determine how much damage an explosion near the ancient Temple of Bel caused the ancient structure in the militant-controlled city of Palmyra.

Activists, including a Palmyra resident, said a bombing by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extensively damaged the 2,000-year-old temple on Sunday.

The resident described a massive explosion, adding he saw images of the damage but couldn’t get near the site.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, said that “undoubtedly” a large explosion took place near the temple, which lies in a sprawling Roman-era complex.

But he said the extent of the damage remains unclear.

A so-called Islamic State operative said the temple had been destroyed, without elaborating.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because members of the group are not allowed to speak to journalists.

Residents in Palmyra told the official Syrian state news agency that so-called Islamic State militants destroyed large parts of the temple and booby trapped other parts of it, expressing concern that they plan to destroy the rest soon.

Last week the extremists destroyed the smaller Temple of Baalshamin in the complex. It posted images of the destruction days later.

Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian government antiquities official, said he believed a large amount of explosives was used and the damage to the Temple of Bel was likely extensive, but he cautioned information was scarce.


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