Islamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Iraqi government said, in their latest assault on some of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural treasures.
A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul said the jihadis, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous, had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris river.
The assault against Nimrud came just a week after the release of a video showing Isis forces smashing museum statues and carvings in Mosul, the city they seized along with much of northern Iraq last June.
“Daesh terrorist gangs continue to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry said, referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym.
“In a new crime in their series of reckless offences, they assaulted the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy machinery, appropriating the archaeological attractions dating back 13 centuries BC,” it said.
Nimrud, about 20 milessouth of Mosul, was built around 1250BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran.
Last week’s video showed them toppling statues and carvings from plinths in the Mosul museum and smashing them with sledgehammers and drills. It also showed damage to a huge statue of a bull at the Nergal gate into the city of Nineveh.
Archaeologists said it was hard to quantify the damage, because some items appeared to be replicas, but many priceless articles had been destroyed including artefacts from Hatra, a stunning pillared city in northern Iraq dating back 2,000 years.
Isis, which rules a self-declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, promotes a fiercely purist interpretation of Sunni Islam which seeks its inspiration from early Islamic history. It rejects religious shrines of any sort and condemns Iraq’s majority Shia Muslims as heretics.
In July it destroyed the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul. It has also attacked Shia places of worship and last year gave Mosul’s Christians an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death by the sword. It has also targeted the Yazidi minority in the Sinjar mountains west of Mosul.
Source: The Guardian