The Islamic State has reportedly destroyed cultural artefacts from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, including one treasured statue that dates as far back as the second century.
According to the Syrian state media, members of the Islamic extremists captured a man who was caught smuggling at least six ancient statues in the province of Aleppo. The man was later tried at an Islamic court in the city of Manbij, which is under the control of ISIS, CNN reported.
The jihadis, who believe that the cultural artefacts violate their radical interpretation of Islam, destroyed them using sledgehammers. They also punished the smuggler with lashings in a public square.
One statue from Palmyra—declared a UNESCO World Heritage site—that the extremists destroyed was the 2,000-year-old Allat God statue, an object that shows a lion catching a deer with its feet.
"ISIS terrorists have destroyed one of the most important unearthed statues in Syria in terms of quality and weight ... it was discovered in 1977 and dates back to the second century A.D.," said Ma'moun Abdul-Karim, director of museums and antiquities.
The statue, made of limestone, was found in 1977 by Polish archaeological mission at the temple of al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess, The Guardian reported.
The ISIS's self-proclaimed state has been accused by the UN of "cultural cleansing," which forms a part of its global propaganda to entice foreign fighters to join its ranks and spread terror in the region.
ISIS' acts of cultural vandalism started when it took control of Palmyra from government forces in May.
"Violent extremists don't destroy heritage as a collateral damage; they target systematically monuments and sites to strike societies at their core," said Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO.
The group has blown up at least two ancient Muslim shrines in the city, known as the "bride of the desert" because of its splendid ruins along a historical trade route that connected Persia, China, and India with the Roman Empire.
ISIS has also bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and destroyed statues at the Mosul Museum.
"We see today that heritage and culture comes sometimes into the forefront of conflict," Bokova said. "The deliberate destruction, what we are seeing today in Iraq and Syria, has reached unprecedented levels in contemporary history."