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UNESCO condemns IS destruction of Syria's Palmyra antiquities

04 july 2015, 15:07

UNESCO on Friday condemned the destruction by Islamic State group jihadists of antiquities in the Syrian city of Palmyra, describing it as an attempt to strip the people of their heritage in order "to enslave them", AFP reports.

"These new destructions of cultural goods of the site of Palmyra reflect the brutality and ignorance of extremist groups and their disregard of local communities and of the Syrian people," said Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general. 

Among the antiquities destroyed was the Lion Statue of Athena -- a unique piece of more than 3 metres high (ten feet) that stood outside a museum, which was smashed on Saturday, Bokova said.

The limestone statue was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archeological mission at the temple of Al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, and dated back to the 1st century BC.

Bokova also expressed outrage at the destruction of funerary busts of Palmyra, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site captured by IS on May 21.

"The destruction of funerary busts of Palmyra in a public square, in front of crowds and children asked to witness the looting of their heritage is especially perverse," she said.

"These busts embody the values of human empathy, intelligence and honor the dead... Their destruction is a new attempt to break the bonds between people and their history, to deprive them of their cultural roots in order to better enslave them," she added.

She urged action against the "manipulation of religion".

IS's harsh version of Islam considers statues and grave markers to be idolatrous, and the group has destroyed antiquities and heritage sites in territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.

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