Isil drove regime out of historic Syrian city, but no reports yet on destruction of Roman-era ruins
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) jihadists executed a group of pro-Assad regime fighters, beheading some of them, after seizing Palmyra with its ancient ruins, according to reports and pictures from the town.
A picture sent by activists to a Western journalist showed a row of men in a street in Palmyra – known locally by its Arabic name Tadmur – lying in a pool of blood.
At least four of the men had been decapitated.
Other activists in the town told contacts elsewhere that the dead men were members of the Shaitat tribe, an anti-Isil Sunni clan from eastern Syria.
The Shaitat suffered one of the worst Isil massacres yet when they rose up against Isil’s conquest of eastern Syria.
When Isil managed to reassert its authority last August it carried out a swathe of punishment killings, shooting, beheading and crucifying 700 people.
In a separate report, the anti-Isil activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said that the group had executed another member of the Shaitat tribe from Abu Hamam town in Deir Ez-zour province with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The jihadists were shown laughing and cheering as one of the men lectures the young man, tied to a pole, then retreats and fires the bazooka.
They then kick the body of the man, named as Ibrahim Shraideh.
Assad regime troops fled Palmyra on Wednesday evening in the face of a concerted Isil attack that had seen hand-to-hand fighting earlier in the day.
Troops were withdrawn from round the ancient Greco-Roman ruins which made Palmyra famous around the world. Isil moved into the site around midnight, according to reports and a statement on pro-Isil social media.
There were no claims yet that Isil had started to damage the site. However, one of its most prominent features is the Temple of Baal, which would be regarded as idolatrous and thus a prime target for the jihadists.
The regime claimed to have evacuated the town of its residents. However, the same activists claimed that most of its 70,000 residents and even soldiers had been abandoned by their senior officers.
Revenge killings, including of the Shaitat, who following the massacre began to be recruited into a pro-Assad militia to fight Isil, began almost immediately.
There was also confusion about what had happened to the inmates of Tadmur Prison. Pictures posted online by the jihadists showed men celebrating their release by Isil.
However, the Revolutionary Co-ordinating Committee of Palmyra (RCC) said that these were men being held at a military or intelligence base in the city who had been freed. Most appeared to be recent inmates, probably Islamist fighters captured during the conflict.
The RCC said that the inmates of the jail had been loaded into buses and taken elsewhere last week.
Tadmur Prison is the most notorious jail in Syria, used by the regime for decades to torture and “lose” its political opponents.
It housed, among many others, Lebanese opponents seized in that country’s civil war in the 1980s.
The ruins were of a famed oasis city that guarded the routes through the desert to the Mediterranean – in antiquity as now.
Its most famous ruler was Queen Zeinobia, who led an uprising against Roman rule in the third century.
Now the town once against occupies a strategically important position. Isil’s victory has cut off remaining regime troops fighting in the city of Deir Ez-zour to the east, and opened a route to central Syria including Homs and even Damascus.
Source : telegraph.co.uk