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Iraq Investigates Reports IS Attacked Third Ancient Site

  • RFE/RL

Iraqi officials say they are investigating reports the Islamic State (IS) group attacked the ancient archaeological site of Khorsabad in northern Iraq on March 8, the third such attack by the militants recently on the country's cultural heritage.

Adel Shirshab, the minister of tourism and antiquities, said there are concerns the militants will remove artifacts and heavily damage the site, located 15 kilometers northeast of the IS-held city of Mosul.

Jumaa Abdullah, an official in the Antiquities Authority of the northern province of Nineveh, said: "Khorsabad residents reported that the militants had stolen most antiquities at the site and blown up a few others."

Shirshab called on a U.S.-led military coalition to protect Iraq's archaeological sites from IS militants.

Shirshab said: "We request aerial support," from the coalition.

"Our air space is not in our hands. It's in their hands," the minister told reporters in Baghdad. "I am calling on the international community and coalition to activate its air strikes and target terrorism wherever it exists."

The coalition announced that it had carried out 12 air strikes in Iraq from March 7 to the morning of March 8, including two near Mosul that reportedly destroyed an IS unit and two "excavators," but it was unclear if these were involved in attacking historic sites.

Khorsabad, also called Dur Sharrukin or Sargon's Fortress, was constructed as a new capital of Assyria by King Sargon II shortly after he came to the throne in 721 B.C.

It features a 24-meter thick wall with a stone foundation and seven gates.

The militant group has already looted and damaged two UNESCO world heritage sites -- Nimrod and Hatra -- both in northern Iraq.

Iraqi officials said the militants razed 3,000-year old Nimrod on March 6 and attacked the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra with bulldozers on March 7.

Video footage has shown the militants ransacking a Mosul museum, smashing statues and sculptures. The footage also showed damage to a huge statue of a bull at the Nergal Gate into the city of Nineveh.

The destruction has drawn global condemnation, with the United Nations describing it as a war crime.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, Reuters, and AFP