IS 'bulldozed' ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, Iraq says

BAGHDAD, IRAQ, Karim Abou Merhi and Jean Marc Mojon- The Islamic State group began bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq on Thursday, the government said, in the jihadists' latest attack on the country's historical heritage.
IS "assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles," the tourism and antiquities ministry said on an official Facebook page.

An Iraqi antiquities official confirmed the news, saying the destruction began after noon prayers on Thursday and that trucks that may have been used to haul away artefacts had also been spotted at the site.
"Until now, we do not know to what extent it was destroyed," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Nimrud, one of the jewels of the Assyrian era, was founded in the 13th century BC and lies on the Tigris River around 30 kilometres (18 miles) southeast of Mosul, Iraq's second city and the main hub of IS in the country.
"I'm sorry to say everybody was expecting this. Their plan is to destroy Iraqi heritage, one site at a time," said Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University.
"Hatra of course will be next," he said, referring to a beautifully-preserved city in Nineveh that is more than 2,000 years old and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
"I'm really devastated. But it was just a matter of time," he said.
The destruction at Nimrud 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 with the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.
- Museum rampage -
In the jihadists' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines amount to recognising other objects of worship than God and must be destroyed.
The video released by IS last week showed militants knocking statues off their plinths and rampaging through the Mosul museum's collection.
"These artefacts behind me are idols for people from ancient times who worshipped them instead of God," a bearded militant said in the video.
"The prophet removed and buried the idols in Mecca with his blessed hands," he said, referring to the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Many of the artefacts destroyed in the Mosul museum were from Nimrud and Hatra.
IS spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran Nineveh province, where Mosul and Nimrud are located, and swept through much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland.
The Mosul region was home to a mosaic of minorities, including the Assyrian Christians, who consider themselves to be the region's indigenous people.
IS has systematically destroyed heritage sites, including Sunni Muslim shrines that it also considers heretical, in areas it controls, and repeatedly attacked members of religious minorities.
Iraqi security forces and allied fighters are battling to regain ground from the jihadists with backing from an international anti-IS coalition as well as neighbouring Iran.
But major operations to drive IS 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.

Friday, March 6th 2015
Karim Abou Merhi and Jean Marc Mojon

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