Date: July 4, 2015
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
PALMYRA, SYRIA (ANS – July 4, 2015) -- A video apparently released by the Islamic State terror group shows 25 men being shot dead in the ancient city of Palmyra, in Syria.
IS said the men were soldiers captured in the city of Homs. They were shot dead inside Palmyra's historic amphitheater in front of a crowd apparently rounded up and forced to watch the horror.
The BBC says that stills from the video showed the killers to be young males, possibly even as young as 13 or 14.
IS captured Palmyra and the neighboring modern city, locally known as Tadmur, in late May.
“The video was distributed by accounts known to be linked with Islamic State militants. It is not clear when it was filmed,” said the BBC. “The killings took place on a stage in the amphitheater in front of a large black IS flag.
“Several hundred men in civilian clothes are filmed sitting on steps watching the shootings. Among them was a young boy.”
In close-up shots of the men waiting to be killed, they appear to have been beaten on the face. Days after IS claimed Palmyra, it executed 20 men in the same amphitheater.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says shootings took place in the amphitheater on May 27, but it is not clear if those killings are the ones in the video.
The BBC added that the video goes on to show the destruction of Tadmur prison, which occurred in late May.
In May, Mamoun Abdelkarim, Syria's head of antiquities, said: “Using the Roman theatre to execute people proves that these people are against humanity.”
Mr. Abdelkarim said most of the museum's antiquities had been transferred to Damascus before IS approached the city.
Since then, there have been reports that mines have been planted among some of Palmyra's ruins, and there were claims this week that militants destroyed an ancient sculpture outside Palmyra's museum.
Since capturing the city, IS has also taken control of a military airbase and a notorious prison nearby.
The ancient ruins are situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.
Fighters with IS started claiming vast swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, aided in part by the insecurity generated by Syria's civil war.
“More than 230,000 Syrians have died in the war, which began after President Bashar al-Assad's forces tried to put down anti-government protests in March 2011,” stated the BBC.
Note: Palmyra was an ancient Semitic city in the present Homs Governorate, Syria. Dating to Neolithic times, it was first documented in the early second millennium BC as a caravan stop for travelers crossing the Syrian Desert. The city was noted in the annals of the Assyrian kings, and may have been mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Palmyra was incorporated by the Seleucid Empire and then the Roman Empire, which brought prosperity.
Photo captions: 1) The mass execution about to take place. 2) Crowds forced to watch the horror. 3) Scene in the amphitheater with IS shooting a video. 4) Dan Wooding in Erbil, Northern Iraq, during a reporting trip.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He has travelled widely in the Middle East for ANS.