ISIS blows up Syrian prison at Palmyra

ISIS militants on May 30 blew up the Tadmur prison complex in the central Syrian city of Palmyra, destroying an important symbol of government control. ISIS announced the destruction of the prison in a statement on social media, and posted pictures of huge clouds of smoke above the sprawling complex. The facility was reportedly emptied before it was destroyed. Days earlier, ISIS released photographs showing appalling conditions in the complex, which held dissidents and deserters from the Syrian army. Photos showed small cells with mold-streaked walls and no beds, plumbing or lighting. Nonetheless, the destruction was protested by leaders of Syria's civil resistance as eliminating substantiation of dictator Bashar Assad's crimes. "ISIS has wiped out evidence of the crimes of the Assad clan by blowing up the infamous Palmyra prison," said Syrian opposition member Mohammad Sarmini on Twitter. The fate of the detainees at the complex is not clear.

ISIS has still not started the feared demolition of the archaeological site at Palmyra—but did release video footage taken at the ruins, evidently to demonstrate that they control the site. Meanwhile, ISIS is meanwhile using the city's Roman amphitheater for mass public executions. Militants reportedly "called people to watch" before executing 20 local residents in the amphitheater on May 27. Said Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: "ISIS went out of its way to bring a large crowd to show their strength. The men, who were accused of fighting alongside the Syrian regime, were executed by firing squad." (Reuters, AFP, May 30; YNet, May 29; Daily Mail, May 27)