ISIS continues destruction of key historic sites, monuments

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Nimrud is one of Iraq's most celebrated ancient cities. | (FILE VIDEO) REUTERS/screen capture

KHORSABAD, Iraq (Christian Examiner) – Iraqi officials are begging for help in protecting cultural treasures as Islamic State jihadists continue the rampant destruction of ancient sites and loot antiquities to sell on the black market.

Multiple media outlets reported Monday that ISIS fighters destroyed an 8th century mosque at Sit Nafis near Mosul. Only 24 hours earlier, terrorists bulldozed landmarks in Dur Sharrukin, a former capital of the Assyrian empire dating back to 800 B.C.

ISIS forces committed similar wanton destruction in Hatra on March 7, and Nimrud on March 6.

United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the attacks as "war crimes."

Unlike in the hugely popular "Monuments Men" movie last year, which depicted allied soldiers in World War II tasked with protecting "cultural heritage" against Nazi Germany, there has been little attempt to ward off the mass destruction of the history of humanity.

The war against antiquities began last summer, with the destruction of the Tomb of Jonah as well as the Shrine of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. But Islamic State fighters also are seizing archaeological relics to sell to eager collectors of antiquities.

"They've been very consistent in doing two things: They destroy antiquities for effect, and they likely use the smokescreen of destruction to cover themselves while they move more transportable items for profit," said Mark Vlasic, an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, in an article for U.S. News and World Report. Vlasic has been following the group's use of so-called blood antiquities. "It is, after all, a criminal organization."

Archaeologists deplore the result.

"The hand of terrorism insists upon erasing the history of humanity by erasing the heritage of the land of the two rivers amid the shock and astonishment of the world," the Iraqi Antiquities and Tourism Ministry said in a statement published by The Guardian, a British tabloid.

"We have warned previously and warn now that these gangs with their sick, takfiri ideology [Muslim who accuses another Muslim of abandoning pure Islam] will continue to destroy and steal artifacts as long as there is no strong deterrent," the statement continued. "We still await a strong international stand to stop the crimes of Daesh [dismissive Arabic acronym for ISIS] that are targeting the memory of humanity."