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Middle East

Iraq’s heritage 'in danger' from ISIS militants

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-09

Some of Iraq’s most important historic monuments are at risk of destruction following the advance of Islamic militants across large swathes of the country, a museum chief has warned in an interview with FRANCE 24.

The Sunni militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL), now calling itself the Islamic State, has seized control of vast swathes of northern Iraq since launching a lightning offensive in early June.

ISIS recently declared the territories under its control in Iraq and Syria an Islamic Caliphate with the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the Caliph, or head of state.

Speaking to FRANCE 24’s Arabic channel, Iraqi National Museum Director Qais Hussein Rashid warned that: “Iraq’s heritage is in great danger in the northern regions in the hands of ISIS militants.”

“We know that ISIS wants to destroy Iraq, its museum and its archaeological sites,” said Rashid, who was in Paris to alert UNESCO of the threat to Iraq’s historic monuments, many of which are World Heritage sites.

Numerous witnesses have attested to the atrocities of ISIS’s fighters, including the destruction of Shiite and Christian places of worship. In the Mosul region, now under insurgent control, ISIS militants have demolished several Sunni, Sufi and Shiite shrines and occupied two Orthodox churches, according to locals and photos recently released by the jihadist group.

Rashid said ISIS fighters had also ransacked the museum in Mosul, the second largest in the country.

"If ISIS stays in Mosul, they will continue to commit a huge crime against Iraqi heritage and that is why we are calling on the international community to support Iraq in this crisis,” he said.

Date created : 2014-07-09

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