Islamic State (IS) militants have taken control of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that militants entered the Unesco World Heritage site after seizing the neighbouring town of Tadmur, airport, prison, and Syrian military intelligence station after regime troops fled.
Around 100 troops are reported to have been killed by IS in the battle for the city.
There are currently no reports of the militants destroying the site, but observers fear that the militants may attempt to demolish the ancient site, which was founded around 2,000 years ago and pre-dates Islam. IS militants in Iraq have previously destroyed priceless ancient artefacts in Nimrud, Mosul and Hatra because they deemed them to be heretical idolatry.
On Wednesday, Syria’s head of antiquities, Maamoun Abdul Karim, said that hundreds of Palmyra’s statues and artefacts have been removed from the site for protection, but various structures and large monuments remain.
The jihadist group has sought international outrage for their their brutality against peoples of other religions and prisoners of war, and the destruction of a site of such historical importance could be seen asuseful in their promotional materials.
The military success of IS in Syria to take control of Palmyra follows recent successes in Iraq to capture the city of Ramadi, which is just 70 miles (112km) from Baghdad.