IRAQ

IS group ‘bulldozes’ ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud

Wikipedia Commons | The entrance to the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, in northern Iraq

The Islamic State (IS) group on Thursday deployed heavy vehicles and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, the Iraqi government said.

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In a statement on its official Facebook page, Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the militant group had “assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it,” but did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.

An Iraqi antiquities official confirmed the news, saying the destruction began after noon prayers and that trucks that may have been used to haul away artefacts had also been spotted at the site.

On Friday, UNESCO condemned the city’s ruin as a “war crime”.

Nimrud, which was founded in the 13th century BC, lies on the Tigris around 30 kilometres southeast of Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the main hub of the IS group in the country.

The destruction at Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, came a week after the jihadist group released a video showing militants armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless ancient artefacts at the Mosul museum.

That attack sparked widespread consternation and alarm, with some archaeologists and heritage experts comparing it to the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

In the jihadists’ extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognising objects of worship other than God.

Last June, the group spearheaded a sweeping offensive that overran Nineveh province, where Mosul and Nimrud are located, and swept through much of Iraq’s Sunni Arab heartland.

Iraqi security forces and allied fighters are battling to regain ground from the militants with backing from an international anti-IS group coalition as well as neighbouring Iran.

But major operations to drive the IS group out of Nineveh are likely months away, leaving the province’s irreplaceable historical sites at the mercy of militants who have no regard for Iraq’s past.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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