Khaled Al Asaad: body of archaeologist murdered by ISIS thought to be found

His son reveals the family's wishes for his father's final resting place

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The family members of Khaled Al Asaad expressed hope that remains found near the historic Syrian city of Palmyra belong to the famed archaeologist murdered by ISIS in 2015 as he tried to prevent the destruction and looting of the Unesco World Heritage site.

Al Asaad was beheaded by the group at the age of 83 after refusing to lead the extremists to hidden troves of ancient artefacts buried to keep them save amid the country's civil war.

Syrian officials say tests are being done to identify three copses found near the site and to know conclusively if one belongs to Al Asaad.

"The authorities informed us two days ago and my brother Mohammed provided yesterday a blood sample for the DNA test which will require 72 hours for the results," Al Asaad's son Tarek told The National.

"We have high hopes that the body will be of our late father and that God will not disappoint us."

Al Asaad dedicated much of his life to uncovering and protecting the Greco-Roman ruins and was in charge of the site for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2003.

His work began early in his career when he was in charge of early excavation and restoration work at Palmyra.

Al Asaad and his son helped to move hundreds of ancient statues to safe locations out of concern they would be destroyed by ISIS militants.

The militants had already demolished several ancient sites in Iraq, and in 2015 they destroyed the facade of the Temple of Bel at Palmyra as well as other sites at the historic city, leading to fears they could destroy even more.

ISIS also looted ancient artefacts, selling them to smugglers who transported them to Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey to be sold on the black market.

Tarek Al Asaad said the family want their father's remains to be buried in the garden of the Palmyra National Museum if the DNA tests showed that one of the bodies was indeed him.

"We will then have the honour, as a family, to escort the remains of our father and our role model to his final resting place. We hope that this place will be the garden of the Palmyra National Museum, as his last request before he was executed was to visit the museum and take his last breaths there," he said.

"There is no place more sacred to my late father than this place. This is our wish as his family."