Date
21 November 2017
Visitors look at Assyrian mural sculptures from Khorsabad at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. The 2,700-year-old capital of ancient Assyria has been desecrated by Islamist militants in a continuing wave of  destruction of antiquities. Photo: Reuters
Visitors look at Assyrian mural sculptures from Khorsabad at the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad. The 2,700-year-old capital of ancient Assyria has been desecrated by Islamist militants in a continuing wave of destruction of antiquities. Photo: Reuters

Islamist extremists ransack ancient city

Islamist militants destroyed parts of the 2,700-year-old city of Khorsabad, the ancient Assyrian capital, continuing a wave of attacks on historical relics.

The desecration of the city famous for its temples and colossal statues followed attacks on the cities of Nineveh, Nimrud and Hatra by the Islamist radicals who control much of northern Iraq, Reuters reported Thursday.

On Wednesday the head of Iraq’s antiquities board and the country’s antiquities minister both confirmed that damage had been inflicted in recent days at Khorsabad, although neither was able to give details.

“The city walls were razed, and some elements of the temples, but we don’t know the exact extent (of the damage),” antiquities director Qais Rasheed told Reuters.

“Looting took place, and then the razing”.

Islamist jihadists rule a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria which contain some of the richest archaeological treasures on earth, where ancient Assyrian empires built their capitals, Graeco-Roman civilization flourished and Muslim and Christian sects co-existed for centuries.

The group, which rejects all but its own narrow interpretation of early Sunni Muslim theology as heresy, has systematically destroyed historic temples, shrines, manuscripts statues and carvings.

Officials say it has also looted widely, selling artifacts to help fund its rule.

The United Nations has condemned the actions as a war crime and an attack on humanity’s common heritage but the global outrage has not slowed the destruction.

Iraq has asked a United States-led coalition which is supporting Baghdad’s fightback against Islamic State with air strikes to deploy its aerial power to defend the country’s heritage.

US Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said in Baghdad on Monday the military priority was focused on populated areas ruled by the militants as opposed to some of the remote antiquities sites.

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RC/RA

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