The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has rightly condemned the murder of Khaled al-As'ad, the retired antiquities director for the city of Palmyra, by ISIS.
In so doing, however, the Oriental Institute also claims that:
The 81 year old Mr. al-As'ad was arrested, tortured, and beheaded for refusing to reveal the location of antiquities from Palmyra that he had hidden away to prevent them from being looted and sold on the illicit antiquities market.
But how does the OI know that?
A well-researched piece in the New York Times instead suggests that the scholar was killed because of his membership in the Baath party and association with the Assad regime.
And, indeed, it appears the claim that the scholar was murdered for refusing to disclose the location of hidden antiquities is based not on eyewitness testimony but upon the claims of antiquities officials of the Assad regime in Damascus.
The murder of this scholar should be mourned as yet another tragedy coming out of Syria's civil war. As'ad devoted his life to studying Palmyra. At least for the moment, it still stands.