Iraqi heritage sites again at risk in Mosul operation
Iraqi heritage sites targeted in a campaign of destruction by the Islamic State (IS) group are again at risk during the operation to retake Mosul from the jihadists. IS vandalised the Mosul museum after overrunning the city in 2014 and attacked sites including the ancient cities of Hatra and Nimrud, posting videos lauding the destruction online.
As Iraqi forces close in on Mosul, the jihadists’ last main bastion in the country, officials say IS has fighters deployed at or near archaeological sites.
“Our information indicates that (IS) has a presence in the archaeological sites,” Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for the Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella organisation for pro-government paramilitary forces, said.
The Hashed al-Shaabi, the most powerful group that are Shiite militia, launched an operation Saturday that could see it advance through IS-held areas in Nineveh province that are home to some of Iraq’s most famed historical sites.
“We expect (IS) will try to lure the advancing forces to the sites for the purpose of increasing their destruction,” he said.
IS had earlier set up a training camp at Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site, and still has militants deployed there, according to Ali Saleh Madhi, the official responsible for the area. At Nimrud, IS rigged structures with explosives and blew up the site, but the jihadists are still present nearby, said Ahmed al-Juburi, the area’s administrator.
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