Islamic State militants have killed at least 400 people in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, mostly women and children, Syrian state television said Sunday, citing residents.
According to Reuters, opposition activists on social media claimed that hundreds of bodies were in the streets of the city.
“The terrorists have killed more than 400 people.. and mutilated their bodies, under the pretext that they cooperated with the government and did not follow orders,” a Palmyra resident told Syria’s state news agency.
State employees were among hundreds killed in the massacre. Among them was the head of nursing department at the hospital and all her family.
Videos posted by Islamic State supporters showed the militants entering governmental buildings in search of Syrian soldiers. They were also seen pulling down pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez Assad, Reuters reported.
At least 300 troops were killed in battles before the city was captured, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“A bigger number of troops have disappeared and it is not clear where they are,” Rami Abdulrahman, from the monitoring group, told Reuters.
Islamic State militants entered Syria’s historic city of Palmyra, a UNESCO landmark, earlier this week after gaining full control over the city. The UN human rights office said Thursday that one-third of Palmyra’s population of 200,000 have fled the city, although there have also been reports of government forces preventing civilians from leaving until they had abandoned the town themselves.
UNESCO describes Palmyra as a city of “outstanding universal value,” an “oasis in the Syrian desert” northeast of Damascus.
“From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Greco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences,” the United Nations agency says.