The Iraqi government claimed Thursday that ISIS militants had "bulldozed" the renowned Nimrud archaeological site in the north of the country.
The country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement posted on its Facebook page that the terror group continues to "defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity". The statement did not elaborate on the extent of the damage to the site.
Axel Plathe, the director of UNESCO’s Iraq office, tweeted that the attack was an "appalling attack on Iraq’s heritage", while Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani told the BBC that ISIS was "erasing our history."
The government’s claim came days after a video released by ISIS showed militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts kept in a museum in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. Statements made by men in the video described the treasures as symbols of idolatry that should be destroyed.
Experts said the reported destruction of the ancient Assyrian archaeological site located just south of , recalled the Taliban’s annihilation of large Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001, experts said.
Nimrud was the second capital of Assyria, an ancient kingdom that began in about 900 B.C., partially in present-day Iraq, and became a great regional power. The city, which was destroyed in 612 B.C., 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.
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.