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AFP

Armed men "behead" Syria poet statue

Unidentified members of an armed group in northern Syria have cut off the head of a statue honoring Abbasid-era poet Abu al-Alaa al-Maari, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

"An armed group in the [rebel-held] town of Maaret al-Numan have cut off the head of a sculpture honoring the memory of poet and philosopher Abu al-Alaa al-Maari, who was born in the town," said the Britain-based Observatory.

It was not clear who the vandals were but Syrian activists from the town accused Al-Nusra Front Islamist extremists for the act, and distributed a photograph of the ruined sculpture which was also riddled with bullets.

Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad overran Maaret al-Numan, which is located in northwestern Syria, in October last year.

Abu al-Alaa al-Maari, was born Ahmed Bin Abdullah Bin Suleiman in Maaret al-Numan in 973. He lost his eyesight at a young age but rose to become one of the greatest Arab poets known for his criticism of Islam and other religions.

In one of his best known works, he wrote: "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have a mind and no religion, and those who have religion but no mind."

Syrian activists from the town accused Al-Nusra Front Islamist extremists for the act.