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IS Blows Up Ancient Temple in Captured Syrian City

FILE - Members of the so-called Islamic State militant group in Syria.

Syrian activists and the country's antiquities chief say the so-called Islamic State militant group has blown up an ancient temple in Palmyra, one of the the most historic sites in the Middle East.

Maamoun Abdulkarim said his darkest fears have come true.

Islamic State extremists destroyed the 2,000-year-old Baal Shamin temple with explosives powerful enough to severely damage the Roman columns that surrounded the ancient building.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the temple's destruction Sunday. Last week it said the militants publicly beheaded the former antiquities director for Palmyra, Khaled Asaad. He had spent 50 years working to preserve the fragile history of the U.N. world heritage site.

Baal Shamin temple, Palmyra, Syria
Baal Shamin temple, Palmyra, Syria

Islamic State seized Palmyra in May and historians immediately issued a global alarm. The militants say ancient artifacts and statues are blasphemous. They have also destroyed other historic sites in Iraq.

But the Observatory says Islamic State has sold a number of ancient pieces to raise money. It says some videos showing extremists blowing up statues and works of art are faked.