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ISIS Destroyed, Stole From Four Historic Iraqi Sites

BAGHDAD (KUNA) -- Archaeologist and Former Director of Nineveh province Inspectorate, Faleh Al-Shammari, said the passage of the Mughal Empire into Baghdad in the 13th century has cost humanity the destruction of Abbasid capital alone, but the passage of the so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as (Daesh), has cost the destruction of four historic capitals all at once.

In such tragic comparison, Al-Shammari summed up the magnitude of civilization disaster that is still unfolding, asserting that due to the control over the Iraqi province of Nineveh by IS, the historical heritage and cradle of the oldest human civilizations is being shattered.

Nineveh is the first Iraqi province in the number of archaeological sites, totaling 1,800 sites dating back to very old historical periods of the past.

The first forms of prehistoric civilization originated in the first agricultural villages and then became the cradle of the Assyrian civilization at the beginning of the sixth millennium BC, followed by Sasanian and Islamic civilizations and the Ottoman Empire.

Meanwhile, Al-Shammari told KUNA that IS has managed to destroy historical evidence of four important historic sites in the province: Nimrud, as capital of the Assyrian empire in the 13th century BC, Nineveh, the capital of Assyrian king Sennacherib and Khorsabad, capital of King Sargon II, both in the seventh century BC, and finally (Al-Hadhar), as the capital of Arab kings in the second century AD.

Al-Shammari pointed out that the invaluable archaeological evidence in these capitals were looted and destroyed, and its archaeological characters brutally and wiped out, most of features except for the Al-Hadhar Kingdom, which was damage lightly.

He pointed out that archaeological inspection in the province counted after IS defeat, the robbery of 109 to 122 pieces of antiquities from the Mosul Museum and the theft or burning of about 30,000 historical manuscripts in the museum library.

Al-Shammari added that destruction and looting also included around 320 archaeological and heritage sites in different parts of the province, including the humpback Nuri Mosque in Mosul and the citadel of Tal Afar archaeological city of Tal Afar.

The Iraqi official also noted that IS tried to portray the matter in terms of what they were destroying as a destruction on ideological basis, but in fact they were blowing and drifting those sites to hide their theft of archaeological treasures to sell them in the future.

Al-Shammari cited the explosion of Nimrod city, which was documented by the terrorist organization in one of its visual publications.

He said that they were trying to conceal the theft of the city's treasures.

Al-Shammari pointed out that government agencies are aware of most of the stolen archaeological treasures, and they know how the terrorist organization managed to send them outside the country to be sold, refusing to reveal more details on this matter now.

The official mentioned that it was ironic that IS was selling parts of the archeological buildings to the general public in "scrap" market, because in their view, it does not have a great financial return, or it does not carry an important archaeological value, like the rest of the collection.

He pointed out that the Antiquities Inspectorate agency seized after the liberation of the city 800 ancient bricks, including 36 bricks that has ancient writings from a citizen who had built a wall to his home using them.

Al-Shammari stressed that the security and judicial authorities competent seized the bricks and confiscated them legally and in accordance with judicial procedures and under the supervision of local police in the province.

He added that the matter was no more than an integrated plan to eliminate the cultural features in Iraq, especially the civilization of Nineveh province and the destruction of its historical heritage after being a prominent destination to the whole world with its priceless treasures and monuments.

Al-Shammari said that Iraq today needs integrated programs for the reconstruction of these sites within time frames of not less than 10 years for each site, provided that they have the sufficient funds needed for reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Omran Al-Obeidi, said that tracking of looted and smuggled materials remains complicated and it depends on the cooperation of countries that allow smuggled items to be sold.

"Tracking depends on the type of contraband," he said. "What has been stolen from museums is easily been registered so it can easily be tracked and retrieved according to international laws, and therefore it cannot be sold or displayed at any international auction.

The problem, however, is the unregistered pieces that was looted by antiquities thieves through indiscriminate and illegal explorations, Al-Obeidi noted.

Al-Obeidi added that IS has destroyed and looted of many pieces from the cities it has controlled in the past three years.

He added that these ancient pieces cannot be pursued easily, and some countries allow trade as long as not officially registered with the competent authorities inside Iraq.

Al-Obeidi also said that the matter depends on the cooperation of those countries, some of which have already begun to control such archeological pieces and their delivery to Iraq, including several European Union countries, especially France and Italy, as well as the United States of America and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Italy alone, Al-Obeidi said, provided Iraq with a comprehensive 500-page report, which includes a full survey of archaeological areas affected by terrorist operations, looting and illegal evictions as part of its support to Iraq in its efforts to assess damage and restore its ancient treasures.

Al-Obeidi disclosed that the United States had in turn seized over 5,000 stolen antiquities seized by the US Company Hubei Lope, hoping to return them to Iraq after the completion of legal proceedings.

The Iraqi official added that international support for Iraq in this area could be reflected in other ways by providing adequate financial support for the reconstruction of archaeological sites destroyed by IS, and this is what Iraq expects from Kuwait international Conference. (end) ahh.mb

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