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ISIS militants executed 17 people, some by beheading, in their first day in control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said Thursday.

The monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that the 17 included members of the Syrian security forces and civilians who support the Syrian government.

It also said that ISIS killed 49 people around Palmyra as it advanced toward the city.

The monitoring group’s claims could not be independently verified by NBC News.

The capture of Palmyra raised fears that its 2,000-year-old relics would be the latest to be demolished by the militants. Palmyra, sometimes called Venice of the Sands or Bride of the Desert, features ancient Roman colonnades and other priceless ruins.


— Erin McClam