BAGHDAD (AFP) – Archaeologists expressed fears Friday that after ransacking the Mosul museum in Iraq, Islamic State group would embark on a systematic destruction of heritage in areas under their control.
Particularly at risk are the ancient cities of Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site, and Nimrud. Both are south of Mosul, which has been the militants’ main hub in Iraq since June last year.
“This is not the end of the story and the international community must intervene,” said Abdelamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist at New York’s Stony Brook University.
IS released a video on Thursday showing its militants smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers at the Mosul museum.
Militants were also seen using a jackhammer to deface a colossal Assyrian winged bull at the Nergal gate in the large archaeological park that lies in the city.
“They told the guards they would destroy Nimrud,” said Hamdani, who used to be based in Iraq with the department of antiquities.
“It is one of the very important Assyrian capitals, there are reliefs and winged bulls there… This would be a real disaster,” he told AFP by telephone from the United States.
“Maybe they will also attack and destroy Hatra, it is a very isolated site in the desert,” he said.
Hatra is a UNESCO-listed site that lies in IS-controlled territory around 100 kilometres southwest of Mosul.
UNESCO says the “remains of the city, especially the temples where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features, attest to the greatness of its civilisation.”