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Bulldozing History: Islamic State's Ongoing Onslaught Against Iraq's Cultural Heritage

Iraq’s government says Islamic State (IS) militants have begun bulldozing the remains of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq in their latest attack on the country’s historical heritage. IS mliitants says ancient statues and shrines are idols that have to be destroyed.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the militants began the destruction after noon prayers on March 5. Ministry officials said they did not yet know the extent of the destruction of the historical city, which was founded about 3,300 years ago on the Tigris River with the ancient name Kalhu and had been one of the jewels of the Assyrian era.

Last week, Islamic State released a video showing militants armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing priceless Assyrian artifacts at the Mosul museum. Some of the artifacts are believed to have been copies.

The director-general of the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, said the reported destruction in Nimrud, which is the city’s later Arab name, amounts to a "war crime." The director of UNESCO's office for Iraq, Axel Plathe, denounced "another appalling attack on Iraq's heritage." Archaeologists and heritage experts compare the destruction with the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

It is not yet known which of the treasures in this photo gallery have survived the Islamic State onslaught, if any.