Islamic State barbarians have killed one of the biggest names in the field of Syrian archaeology. They have beheaded 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad in Palmyra after keeping him captive for months.
The killing of al-Asaad is equivalent to killing off the history of Syria itself.
Al-Asaad was instrumental in the preservation of Syrian antiquities dating back to time when the Roman Empire was at its zenith.
His mutilated body was hung from an ancient column in the ISIS-controlled ancient city of Palmyra. According to Wall Street Journal, a photograph of his body is doing the rounds of anti-government activists.
Palmyra is an ancient city in Syria, overtaken by Islamic State militants in May this year.
Asaad was accused of idolatry, for which the punishment according to the extremist interpretation of Islam followed by ISIS is death.
The Guardian reports that a sign was seen hanging from Asaad’s body which read that he had been killed because he had overseen Palmyra’s “idols” and attended “apostate” academic conferences abroad.
The real reason behind his killing could be the fact that he refused to reveal the location of hidden artefacts.
Asaad was in Palmyra trying to salvage the artefacts. He was able to ship out as many precious artefacts he could but was unable to leave on time himself.
Asaad worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra. He was officially retired but his love for the history of Syria continued with his involvement as an expert with the Antiquities and Museums Department.
Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim condemned the brutal killing of Asaad and lamented that the presence of ISIS in Palmyra is a curse and bad omen on every column and every archaeological piece in the city.
Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official, said that not talking about Asaad while discussing Palmyrian history is like talking “about Egyptology without talking about Howard Carter”.