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Palmyra's Ancient Ruins 'Will Not be Damaged,' ISIS Commander Says

ISIS has claimed in a purported interview with Syria's Alwan Radio that it will not destroy the ruins of Palmyra but will "pulverize" its statues.
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An ISIS commander has reportedly claimed that the extremist group will not destroy ancient ruins in the Syrian city of Palmyra, as feared by heritage organizations after the militants seized the city last week.

Speaking to Syria's Alwan Radio, the man identifying himself as Abu Laith al-Saoudi said that while his fighters would leave the ruins and monuments untouched, they would "pulverize" any statues left in the city.

NBC News could not independently verify the identity of al-Saoudi, who Alwan Radio said was ISIS' military leader in Palmyra.

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"Concerning the historical city, we will preserve it and it will not be damaged," he said. "But what we will do is to pulverize statues that the miscreants used to pray for. As for the historical monuments, we will not touch them with our bulldozers as some tend to believe."

Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old ruins are designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, which describes the once-great city as "one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world."

Hundred's of Palmyra's statues were moved to safe locations before ISIS seized the city.

Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters on Tuesday that the ruins had sustained "no damage so far." Appearing to support this claim, ISIS published a video on the same day showing some of the ruins undamaged.

The extremists have already raided and destroyed priceless antiquities in neighboring Iraq, from laying waste to the 3,000-year-old city of Nimrud to smashing relics in a Mosul museum.

NBC News' Ammar Cheikh Omar, Charlene Gubash and Reuters contributed to this report.