Report: Islamic State Threatens to Loot Biblical Relics in Iraq

Monday, 07 Jul 2014 01:57 PM

By Melanie Batley

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The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, is threatening to loot and destroy ancient biblical relics in Nineveh and other sites around jihadist-occupied Mosul, The Daily Beast reported.

Last month, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi unexpectedly visited the Mosul Museum telling museum staff that ancient statues were "against Islam." Members of IS have since taken occupation of the building, which had been closed for years for restoration following a looting in the wake of the 2003 American-led invasion.

"They say they are awaiting instructions from their guide [al-Baghdadi] to destroy these statues," Iraqi National Museum director Qais Hussein Rashid told the Daily Beast.

In addition to the sculptures, thousands of artifacts and ancient manuscripts from Christian, Islamic, and pagan history in the Mosul region are also in danger of being destroyed or stolen and sold.

Mosul is in the middle of 1,791 registered archeological sites, according to the Beast, which includes four capitals of the Assyrian empire and stands at the heart of Old Testaments sites.

IS troops have removed statues in the city, and have attacked and destroyed Shia mosques and shrines, using demolition teams and bulldozers. Al-Baghdadi previously looted ancient Syrian sites, selling the antiquities on the black market, which helped raise an estimated $2 billion for his war chest, according to the Beast.

Rashid and Abbas Qureishi, director of the "recovery" program for the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism, have appealed to the West for help, saying they do not have the resources to preserve the relics. Specifically, they are asking for the United States and Europe to intervene militarily.

"In a traditional military engagement, tanks and artillery will damage a site," Qureishi told the Daily Beast. "U.S. drones have very precise munitions which can hit targets without destroying the [archeological] sites nearby."

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