Newspaper article International New York Times

Outrage as ISIS Lays Waste to an Ancient City ; U.N. Calls Vandalism at Nimrud 'War Crime' as Despair at Damage Grows

Newspaper article International New York Times

Outrage as ISIS Lays Waste to an Ancient City ; U.N. Calls Vandalism at Nimrud 'War Crime' as Despair at Damage Grows

Article excerpt

Archaeologists despaired that the Islamic State aimed to systematically destroy the relics of civilization's birthplace at Nimrud.

News that Islamic State fighters had bulldozed and vandalized the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq provoked widespread outrage on Friday, as archaeologists despaired that the militant extremist group was systematically destroying the priceless relics of civilization's birthplace.

The top cultural official at the United Nations called the latest destruction a war crime, and vowed to do "whatever is needed" to stop the plundering by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

"This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country," said the official, Irina Bokova, who is director general of Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"It targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity's ancient heritage," Ms. Bokova said in a statement on the Unesco website.

Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities confirmed on Thursday that Islamic State militants had used bulldozers and other heavy vehicles to vandalize an important archaeological site at Nimrud, about 18 miles southeast of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city seized by the Islamic State last June.

Nimrud was founded more than 3,300 years ago and was one of the capitals of the Assyrian Empire. Its statues, frescos and other works are revered around the world.

The Nimrud destruction came a week after Islamic State militants videotaped themselves marauding through Mosul's museum, using sledgehammers and torches to destroy artifacts and books.

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohamed Alhakim, said it was important for other nations to stand with Iraqis "as we try to clear Iraq militarily of those people and to help us with that."

"They're taking us back to the dark ages, those people," he said of the militants. "They are thugs."

Islamic State leaders have sought to justify the cultural destruction by asserting that statues and other artifacts violate Islamic prohibitions on idol worship. …

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