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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.

Photographs taken in July 2001 (above and below) show Iraqi workers cleaning a statue of a winged bull and attending to other areas of an archaeological site in Nimrud.
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Photographs taken in July 2001 (above and below) show Iraqi workers cleaning a statue of a winged bull and attending to other areas of an archaeological site in Nimrud.

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A stela -- a carved or inscribed stone slab or pillar used for commemorative purposes -- in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud featuring a relief of an Assyrian king or deity. This and the following photos were taken by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq in 2012.
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A stela -- a carved or inscribed stone slab or pillar used for commemorative purposes -- in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud featuring a relief of an Assyrian king or deity. This and the following photos were taken by RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq in 2012.

A general view of the Nimrud site
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A general view of the Nimrud site

The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud with an Assyrian ziggurat in the background
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The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud with an Assyrian ziggurat in the background

Portal guardians -- a sphinx with a human head, bull body, and wings
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Portal guardians -- a sphinx with a human head, bull body, and wings

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