Barbarians fighting for the Islamic State in Syria have destroyed two mausoleums in the ancient city of Palmyra, the country's antiquities director confirmed today.
ISIS captured the central Syrian city on May 21, sparking immediate fears that they would take sledgehammers to its well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins as they have done at other historic sites.
Those fears are now beginning to be realised, with the extremists reportedly using explosives to destroy ancient Islamic and pre-Islamic sites in the city - including the tombs of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed - which the terror group claim serve only to distract from the worship of Allah.
Syria's antiquities director Maamoun Abdulkarim said ISIS blew up the tombs of Mohammed bin Ali, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed's cousin, and Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine, a religious figure from Palmyra, three days ago.
Bin Ali's burial place is located in a mountainous region almost three miles north of Palmyra.
Abu Bahaaeddine's tomb, nestled in a leafy oasis about 500 yards from Palmyra's ancient ruins, is said to be more than five centuries old.
In total ISIS has destroyed at least 50 mausoleums dating between 100-200 years old in the regions under its control in north and east Syria, the antiquities director said.
'They consider these Islamic mausoleums to be against their beliefs, and they ban all visits to these sites,' Abulkarim added.
Ten days ago, fighters from the jihadist group also destroyed a number of tombstones at a cemetery for Palmyra residents, Abulkarim revealed.
'All tombs with marble designs were destroyed. For them, graves should not be visible,' he said.
The extremist group captured Palmyra, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, from pro-government forces on May 21.
At the weekend, ISIS fighters mined the city's ancient site, renewing fears that they would demolish the famed ruins as they have other historic sites in Iraq.
American and Arab airstrikes on ISIS targets have already damaged a number of ancient buildings in Palmyra, although the majority of historic structures and monuments remain untouched.
Syria's army has advanced in recent days west of the city, near key oil and gas fields.
ISIS has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory it holds in both Syria and Iraq.
Its militants have a history of carrying out mass killings in towns and cities they capture and of destroying ancient monuments which they consider evidence of paganism.
By John Hall
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.