ISIS militants have destroyed two historic mausoleums in Palmyra, Syria's top antiquities official says, raising fears that the extremists could next target the town's famed Roman ruins. The head of the government's Antiquities and Museums Department says the extremists destroyed the grave of Muhammad bin Ali, a descendant of Imam Ali, cousin of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and a deeply revered Shiite saint. The grave was just north of Palmyra. The second tomb is close to the city's famed Roman-era archaeological site and was the final resting place of a Sufi scholar, Nizar Abu Bahaa Eddine, who lived in Palmyra some 500 years ago.
Since ISIS captured Palmyra last month, there have been fears that the extremists, who have destroyed famed archaeological sites in Iraq, would demolish its sprawling Roman-era ruins, which were once one of the most popular tourist sites in the Middle East. The antiquities official says he has received "unofficial news" from Palmyra that the militants intended to blow up the town's main historic site and that he had contacted tribal chiefs in the area to try to dissuade the militants. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group says it has received information that militants have mined the site. (When ISIS first seized the city, residents said the militants started "acting like municipal functionaries.")