A video posted yesterday shows men affiliated with Islamic State violently ransacking the Mosul Museum, the second largest in Iraq, and nearby Nineveh archeological site with sledgehammers, drills, and jackhammers.
The video captures the Islamic State militants pushing over ancient statues (see photo on left) and shattering artifacts that were believed to be several thousand years old and part of Iraq’s cultural heritage.
An Islamic State spokesman makes several accusatory statements overheard in the video, saying that that ancient relics in Iraq are against the teachings of Islam and described them as “idols”.
“The prophet Muhammad commanded us to shatter and destroy these statues” he said. “This is what his companions did later on, when they conquered lands” he added.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York released a statement from Director Thomas Campbell strongly condemning the Islamic State ransacking of Iraq’s ancient antiquities.
“Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum’s collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.”
Archeologists have reviewed the video footage and believe that the destroyed artifacts in the video are mostly replicas of the originals.
Archeologists interviewed yesterday on the UK’s Channel 4 said that most of the destroyed sculptures in Mosul being shown in the video were replicas of the originals which were sent to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in advance of the ransacking to avoid having them destroyed.
Mosul was taken over by Islamic State last June. The United States is currently training around 12 Iraqi brigades to retake Mosul later in the spring.
“In total, we have said from the beginning, we think it’s going to take about 12 brigade equivalents to execute the Mosul operation, and we still kind of stand to that” said a U.S. command official via teleconference from U.S. Central Command on February 19,2015.
Earlier this week Islamic State militants abducted over 220 Assyrian Christians from 11 villages and burned 2 churches in northeast Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Yesterday a U.S. led alliance carried out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in an area in northern Syria where the Islamic State militants are believed to have abducted the 220 Assyrian Christians.
On February 15th Islamic State released a video depicting the beheading of 21 members of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Libya. The Coptic men were previously kidnapped in Libya and were seeking employment.