ISIS militants have destroyed a landmark ancient Roman monument and parts of the theater in Syria's historic town of Palmyra, the government and opposition monitoring groups say. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria's antiquities department, says the militants destroyed the facade of the second-century amphitheater along with the Tetrapylon, a cubic-shaped ancient Roman monument that sits in the middle of the colonnade road that leads to the theater, the AP reports. Abdulkarim says reports of the destruction first trickled out of the ISIS-held town late in December, but satellite images confirming the destruction were only available late Thursday. Abdulkarim says only two of the 16 columns of the Tetrapylon remain standing and the stage backdrop has sustained damage.
The extremists recaptured the ancient town in December from government troops—nine months after they were expelled in a Russia-backed offensive. Russia flew an orchestra to the city to celebrate what turned out to be a temporary liberation. During their first stay, from May 2015 until May 2016, ISIS destroyed ancient temples, including the Temple of Bel, which dated back to AD32, and the Temple of Baalshamin, a structure of stone blocks several stories high fronted by six towering columns. The militants also blew up the Arch of Triumph, which had been built under Roman emperor Septimius Severus between AD193 and AD211.