Middle East

Syria conflict: Unesco adds ancient sites to danger list

AFP photograph of Aleppo's Umayyad Mosque and its minaret (16 April 2013) and purported photograph showing mosque without minaret after its destruction (24 April 2013)
Image caption The minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo was destroyed during clashes

Six ancient sites in Syria have been added to a UN list of endangered World Heritage sites because of the threat from the conflict there.

The sites were placed on the list by the UN's cultural organisation, Unesco at its annual meeting in Cambodia.

It is hoped the decision will rally support for safeguarding the sites, Unesco says.

The fighting and security situation has left Syria's archaeological sites susceptible to damage and looting.

Unesco said its information on the scale of the destruction was "partial" and came from unverified sources including social media and a report from the Syrian authorities which it said "does not necessarily reflect the actual situation", the AFP news agency reports.

Aleppo's old city, in particular, has "witnessed some of the conflict's most brutal destruction," it said, adding that the old citadel had been "caught in the line of fire".

"The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated," it added.

In April, the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque - one of Syria's most famous - was destroyed during clashes in Aleppo.

There are also fears for two castles considered architectural treasures of the 11th-13th Century Crusades - Crac des Chevaliers and Qalat Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin).

The two sites have "been exposed to clashing and gunfire", according to a report by the Syrian authorities given to Unesco.

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