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Photos Puport to Show Islamic State Destroying Ancient Shrines in Palmyra

The apparent destruction of the sites has led to fears that the famed 2,000-year-old Roman ruins nearby could be next in line for similar treatment.
Imagen vía Islamic State

Islamic State (IS) militants have reportedly destroyed two shrines in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was seized by the group in May.

Maamoun Abdulkarin, the head of the Syrian Antiquities and Museums Department, said on Wednesday that the Sunni militants had destroyed the grave of Mohammad Bin Ali, a Shiite saint, and as well as the tomb of the Sufi scholar, Nizar Abu Bahaa Eddine, who lived in Palmyra around 500 years ago.

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On Tuesday, an IS branch in Homs posted photos online apparently showing the destruction.

Related: Islamic State Video 'Smashing Idols' Shows the Demolition of Yet Another Ancient City

The shrines, close to the famed 2,000-year-old Roman ruins, have prompted fears that further historic and archaeological sites could be next in line for similar treatment.

On Sunday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it received information of IS militants planting landmines and explosives around the ruins.

Speaking to Reuters, Abdulkarin said: "In all the areas where they spread when they see tombs they destroy them as see them as sacrilegious and a return to paganism."

Within days of IS capturing Palmyra last month, Syrian state media claimed that at least 400 people, including women and children, had been killed by the militants. There were also reports of IS rounding up 20 men accused of being pro-government, and executed in an amphitheater.

Related: Looting and Destruction Feared as Islamic State Seizes Syria's Ancient City of Palmyra

In retaliation to the fall of Palmyra, Syrian forces launched several airstrikes in the city, reportedly killing at least 15 civilians.

Prior to IS seizing control of the heritage site, Syrian authorities said they moved a number of artifacts from Palmyra. The militants, believing that the shrines amount to idol worshipping, have destroyed a number of sites across Iraq.

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In a museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul, a video by IS purported to have shown militants using sledgehammers and drills to smash statues. In response, UNESCO's Irina Bokova said: "This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy. This is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq."

In March, IS also targeted ruins at the ancient city of Hatra in Iraq, as well as bulldozing ruins in the Assyrian city of Nimrud.

All photos via Islamic State/Wilayat Homs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.