ISIS militants pocketed up to $200 million last year on plundered antiquities from Palmyra, the Syrian desert town with 2,000-year-old ruins, Russian investigators revealed.

Palmyra is an archaeological gem and a cherished landmark known endearingly to Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert.” It is also a strategic crossroads linking the Syrian capital, Damascus, with the country’s east and the border with Iraq. Syrian forces recaptured Palmyra in March, their first major victory in years over Islamic State fighters who had overseen a 10-month reign of terror in the town.

During their stay, the extremists destroyed some of Palmyra’s best-known monuments, including two large temples dating back more than 1,800 years and a Roman triumphal arch. The militants also used the ancient Roman amphitheater for public killings, including a video they released showing 25 boys with pistols shooting captured Syrian soldiers, with the colonnades in the background.

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