The Tower of Elahbel, built in AD103, was among those destroyed

Jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) have blown up three funerary towers at the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities chief has said. Maamoun Abdul Karim said they included the Tower of Elahbel, built in AD103 and one of the best-preserved.

The multi-storey sandstone monuments, standing outside the city walls in an area known as the Valley of the Tombs, belonged to rich Palmyrene families.

Their demolition comes only days after IS blew up Palmyra’s two main temples.

The group, which captured the UNESCO World Heritage site from government forces in May, has previously destroyed two Islamic shrines – those of a Shia saint and Sufi scholar – near Palmyra, which they described as “manifestations of polytheism”.

The Valley of the Tombs, in the hills to the south and west of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city, contains a series of funerary towers of various sizes.

The towers were divided into compartments, or loculi, into which sarcophagi were placed before being sealed with slabs of stone carved with an image of the deceased and painted in lively colours. (BBC)