15:18 GMT18 January 2021
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    A 2,000-year-old statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra has been destroyed by militants from the Islamic State group, according to the country’s antiquities director Maamoun Abdelkarim.

    Syria's antiquities director Maamoun Abdelkarim said that Islamic State militants have destroyed a famous 2,000-year-old statue of a lion outside the museum in the Syrian city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site.

    A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra on May 14, 2015
    © AFP 2020 / JOSEPH EID
    A file picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. Islamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra on May 14, 2015

    The statue, which is made of limestone, dates back to the 1st century BC; it was discovered in 1977 by a Polish archaeological mission at the temple of al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess.

    "IS members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three meters (10 feet) tall and weighs 15 tons. It's the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra's heritage," Abdelkarim said.

    He also said that the statue had been covered with a metal plate and sandbags to protect it from the fighting, adding that "we never imagined that IS would come to the town to destroy it."

    This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria
    © AP Photo / SANA via AP, File
    This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria

    The Islamic State captured Palmyra from government forces on 21 May, the jihadist group subsequently blew up several historic Muslim graves.

    However, the most famous sites have been left intact, with most of the pieces in the Palmyra museum reportedly being evacuated by antiquities staff before the Islamic State entered the city.

    Late last month, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Islamic State militants had planted explosives and mines in the ruins of the Palmyra, adding that "it is unknown whether they have mined the city in order to destroy the antiquities or to prevent the [Assad] regime forces from getting advance towards the city."

    Related:

    Islamic State Militants Mine Ancient City of Palmyra
    ISIL Militants Execute 20 in Palmyra's Roman Amphitheater
    Syria’s Ancient City of Palmyra Yet Untouched by ISIL Militants – UNESCO
    Russia Condemns Islamic State Atrocities in Syria's Palmyra
    Tags:
    Daesh, government, crime, museum, statue, militants, Palmyra, Syria
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