Syrian troops drive IS out of historic Palmyra

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian state TV is showing images from Palmyra (pahl-MEER'-uh), which was retaken by Syrian government forces today from the Islamic State militants who held the town for ten months.

The militants had demolished some of the best-known monuments there, including two large temples dating back more than 1,800 years. State TV today showed the rubble left over from the destruction of the Temple of Bel, and a damaged Roman archway -- the supports still standing.

The broadcast said a statue of Zenobia, a 3rd-century queen who figures strongly in Syrian lore, is missing. Artifacts inside the city's museum appear to be heavily damaged, with a sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena decapitated.

The extremists beheaded the 81-year-old director of the archaeological site last August, after he reportedly refused to tell them where authorities had hidden some of the town's treasures.

The Syrian government advance into Palmyra -- achieved with the help of Russian airstrikes -- marks the latest in a series of setbacks for the Islamic State group. It's come under mounting pressure on several fronts in Iraq and Syria in recent months.

%@AP Links

047-c-10-(Philip Issa, AP Correspondent)-"of booby traps"-AP correspondent Philip Issa reports government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have driven Islamic State fighters from Palmyra. (27 Mar 2016)

<<CUT *047 (03/27/16)££ 00:10 "of booby traps"

049-c-10-(Philip Issa, AP Correspondent)-"air force power"-AP correspondent Philip Issa reports Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that the armed forces and groups of popular defense committees have fully taken control of Palmyra. (27 Mar 2016)

<<CUT *049 (03/27/16)££ 00:10 "air force power"

APPHOTO CAITH101: FILE - This undated file image released by UNESCO shows the site of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. Palmyra is an archaeological gem that Syrian troops took back from Islamic State fighters, Sunday, March 27, 2016. A desert oasis surrounded by palm trees in central Syria, Palmyra is also a strategic crossroads linking the Syrian capital, Damascus with the country's east and neighboring Iraq. Home to 65,000 people before the latest fighting, the town is located 155 miles (215 kilometers) east of Damascus. (Ron Van Oers, UNESCO via AP, File) (27 Mar 2016)

<<APPHOTO CAITH101 (03/27/16)££

APPHOTO HAS107: In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian soldiers gather around a Syrian national flag in Palmyra, Syria, Sunday, March 27, 2016. Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group say government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have driven Islamic State fighters from the historic central town of Palmyra, held by the extremists since May. (SANA via AP) (27 Mar 2016)

<<APPHOTO HAS107 (03/27/16)££

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