Palmyra statues
Pictures published on IS media site show militants destroying Palmyran statuesislamic State

Unesco has described the actions of Islamic State militants who blew up the temple as an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity'. Director-General Irina Bokova said: "One week after the killing of Professor Khaled al-Assaad, the archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra's ruins for four decades, this destruction is a new war crime."

She added: "Extremists seek to destroy this diversity and richness, and I call on the international community to stand united against this persistent cultural cleansing. Daesh is killing people and destroying sites, but cannot silence history and will ultimately fail to erase this great culture from the memory of the world. Despite the obstacles and fanaticism, human creativity will prevail, buildings and sites will be rehabilitated, and some will be rebuilt."

Isis militants reportedly used dynamite to destroy the ancient temple situated in the Syrian archaeological site of Palmyra. One witness said IS had been laying explosives around the temple for more than a month.

Syria's head of antiquities Maamoun Abdulkarim was quoted as saying the temple was blown up on Sunday 23 August, causing "much damage", followed by the collapse of the surrounding columns. However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that it happened a month ago.

"Our worst fears are sadly being realised," Abdulkarim said.

The ancient city, which is a Unesco World Heritage site, is famed for its well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, and the Baalshamin temple, built nearly 2,000 years ago, is one of the city's best-known buildings. The great temple of Ba'al was considered one of the most important religious buildings of the 1st century AD.

Before the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, more than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year, according to Unesco.