ISIS destroys third ancient city, Iraq presses for US-led coalition protection
The Islamic state has reportedly destroyed and looted the ancient Assyrian city of Dur Sharrukin which was founded in 717 BC just as the Iraqi antiquities minister has said that US led anti-ISIS coalition airstrikes can save Iraq’s cultural heritage.
The Islamists blew up the ruins of the city Dur Sharrukin close to Khorsabad city in northern Iraq on Sunday, Jumaa Abdullah, official in the Antiquities Authority of Nineveh province, told DPA.
“Residents in Khorsabad reported that the organization [Islamic State] had stolen most antiquities of the site and blown up few others,” he said.
The city which is famous for its carved stone reliefs was founded by Assyrian King Sargon II in 717 BC. Later the city became the capital of Assyria.
The Iraqi government is investigating the reports from the site trying to evaluate the damage. This latest act follows a series of destructive assaults committed by the Islamic state militants which have garnered condemnation from around the world.
On Sunday Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab said the US-led coalition air strikes could defend the cultural heritage of the country.
“Our airspace is not in our hands. It’s in their hands,” he told reporters in Baghdad. “I am calling on the international community and coalition to activate its air strikes and target terrorism wherever it exists.”
However, Shirshab and the head of the antiquities board, Qais Rasheed, believe the coalition did not do enough to prevent the attacks at the ancient cities. According to the officials, the coalition military were able to see at least the preparations of the militants to bulldozing of Hatra.
“It was possible to carry out surveillance. Why didn't this happen?” Shirshab asked.
The Hatra site, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987, was destroyed on Saturday, the employees of the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reported. However, it is still hard to estimate the damage, as no images of the demolition have been received so far.
“We have confirmation that they bulldozed sites at Nimrud and Hatra. What we don't have is information about the size of the area which has been razed,” Rasheed said as cited by Reuters.
The militants belong to the strict school of Sunni Islam which stands behind the vandalism of the terrorists. They attempt to destroy everything that is heresy according to their doctrine. The ancient statues are described by ISIS leaders as “idols” and must be removed is a part of the group's policy.
Earlier this week, Islamic State militants bulldozed the ruins of the Assyrian city of Nimrud, located nearby. The city was founded in the 13th century BC and is located on the Tigris River. In the 1980s, scientists discovered the city’s royal tombs – one of the city’s notable archaeological finds of the 20th century.
A week ago, the Islamists shared a video which showed militants smashing ancient statues and other rare artifacts somewhere ambiguous but nonetheless believed to be the museum in Mosul, city controlled by the militants.
In February, the jihadists blew up the Mosul Public Library using homemade bombs. In January, the militants took all the books from the Central Library of Mosul, leaving only Islamic texts.