Islamic State militants have “bulldozed” the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul using heavy military vehicles, the government said.
A statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities didn’t elaborate on the extent of the damage, saying only that the group continues to “defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity” with this latest act, which came after an attack on the Mosul museum just days earlier.
The destruction of the site of one of ancient Mesopotamia’s greatest cities yesterday recalled the Taliban’s annihilation of large Buddha statues in Afghanistan more than a dozen years ago, experts said.
Nimrud was the second capital of Assyria, an ancient kingdom that began in about 900 BC, partially in present-day Iraq, and became a great regional power. The city, which was destroyed in 612 BC, is located on the Tigris River just south of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, which was captured by the Islamic State group in June.
The late 1980s discovery of treasures in Nimrud’s royal tombs was one of the 20th century’s most significant archaeological finds. After Iraq was invaded in 2003, archaeologists were relieved when they were found hidden in the country’s central Bank in a secret vault-inside-a-vault submerged in sewage water.
The Islamic State extremists, who control a third of Iraq and Syria, have attacked other archaeological and religious sites, claiming that they promote apostasy. Earlier this week a video emerged on militant websites showing Islamic State militants with sledgehammers destroying ancient artifacts at the Mosul museum, sparking global outrage.
Last year, the militants destroyed the Mosque of the Prophet Younis or Jonah and the Mosque of the Prophet Jirjis, two revered ancient shrines in Mosul. They also threatened to destroy Mosul’s 850-year old Crooked Minaret, but residents surrounded the structure, preventing the militants from approaching.
Iraq’s national museum in Baghdad opened its doors to the public last week for the first time in 12 years in a move Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said was to defy efforts “to destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq’s civilization.”