Syria archaeological sites looted ‘on industrial scale’: UNESCO

Daily Times: Archeological sites in Syria are being looted “on an industrial scale” and the proceeds from the plunder are funding Islamic State extremists, the head of UNESCO warned on Wednesday.

“Satellite imagery shows that archaeological sites in Syria are dotted by thousands of illegal excavations… that show there is looting on an industrial scale,” Irina Bokova said in Sofia.

“Limiting the trafficking in cultural property is a top priority because it finances the actions of the extremists,” she told a conference on combating the looting of Syria’s cultural heritage.

“The world expects from us to undertake decisive and uncompromising actions… to stop this source of funding for the extremists.”

Syria is considered a cradle of human civilisation and is home to some of the world’s most precious monuments of antiquity, including six UNESCO world heritage sites. In four years of civil war and with Islamic State militants controlling large swathes of the country, the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA) says that more than 900 monuments and archeological sites have been looted, damaged or destroyed.

The jihadists have blown up several famed tower tombs at the UNESCO-listed world heritage site of Palmyra, which they captured in May.

In August, they murdered the 82-year-old retired head of antiquities in Palmyra, Khaled al-Assad, and hung his mutilated body in public.

Bokova slammed the destruction at Palmyra as “an impudent crime against civilisation because it was a symbol of cultural dialogue, a material proof of the ability of cultures to interact.


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