Family describe horror at city custodian’s beheading

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
The family of the custodian of Palmyra who was beheaded by Isis in August described their horror to learn that the octogenarian had been killed because he refused to tell the jihadists where treasures were hidden.

The blood-soaked headless corpse of Khaled al-Asaad, 81, a former chief of the Unesco world heritage site, was strung up on traffic lights by Isis. His severed head was placed between his feet, and next to it was a sign accusing the antiquities expert of being an “apostate” and “director of idolatry”.

His son Mohamed, who worked at the Palmyra museum that was turned into a courthouse by militants, learnt of his father’s murder on the internet. The family fled the city immediately.

“The news hit me like a thunderbolt,” he said. “They took him to the main square of the city and beheaded him in front of people. Whoever tried to leave was killed as well. Our father was a man who served his city and country for decades. His murder was ugly and shameful.”

Asaad, who was nicknamed Mr Palmyra, was appointed director in 1963 and held the position until 2003, when he handed the mantle to his son Walid. The archaeological ruins became a family business. Walid, Mohamed and Assad’s other son, Omar, joined him in the field of antiquities, while two of his daughters, Zeinobia and Fairuz, worked at the site’s museum. His son-in-law, Khalil al-Hariri, was also employed at the museum.

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