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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Islamic State militants beheaded a leading Syrian antiquities scholar who spent most of his life looking after the ancient ruins of Palmyra. The militants then hung his body from a pole in a main square of the historic town, Syrian activists and the scholar's relatives said Wednesday.
The killing of 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad was the latest atrocity perpetrated by the militant group, which has captured a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq and declared a self-styled "caliphate" on the territory it controls.
Since IS overran Palmyra in May, there have been fears the extremists, who have destroyed famed archaeological sites in Iraq, would demolish the 2,000-year-old Roman-era city at the edge of the town — a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the Mideast's most spectacular archaeological sites.
The Sunni extremist group, which has imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah, believes ancient relics promote idolatry. IS militants claim they are destroying ancient artifacts and archaeological treasures as part of their purge of paganism. The destruction IS has wreaked adds to the wider, extensive damage it has inflicted on ancient sites, including mosques and churches across Syria and Iraq.