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ISIS Video Shows Devastating Destruction of Ancient Assyria’s Capital

Video by ISIS of a militant destroying an ancient Assyrian frieze. (Screen grab via Youtube)
Video by ISIS of a militant destroying an ancient Assyrian frieze. (All gifs by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

They were removing “signs of idolatry.”

That’s what an ISIS fighter said in a video published online Saturday that shows the full extent of the group’s destruction of the ancient ruins of Nimrud in early March, the AFP reported.

Wielding sledgehammers and power tools, militants were shown tearing into 3,000-year-old giant statues of winged bulls with human heads (known as “lamassus”) and a gypsum relief panel depicting ancient gods — none of whom are worshipped today.

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ISIS fighters toppling ancient Assyrian sculptures.

“Here we are, thanks to God, as you see, removing every statue that was made to be equal to God,” one fighter announced.

Then — because all that iconoclasm can be really tiring — they finished the job with barrels of gunpowder rigged with explosives. Filmed from a distance, the former Assyrian capital and prospective UNESCO World Heritage Site went up in a dusty cloud of smoke. From the looks of it, it’s been completely leveled.

ISIS had already destroyed artifacts from Nimrud during its February attack on the Mosul Museum in Iraq, which housed some of its sculptures. Luckily, a few sculptures from the site were also moved to museums in Paris and London, and the famous “Treasure of Nimrud” — a trove of 613 jewels and golden ornaments discovered in 1988 and considered to be one of the 20th century’s greatest archaeological finds — is currently being safeguarded in Baghdad.

ISIS video reputedly destroying the ancient Assyrian archeological site of Nimrod.
ISIS video reputedly destroying the ancient Assyrian archeological site of Nimrud.

For those who think that ISIS’s destruction of Nimrud is a war crime, as UN cultural agency chief Irina Bokova said when news of the attack first surfaced last month, the militant group has some choice words. In the recent video, an ISIS fighter called its critics “worthless people crying because we broke idols.” He complained that the media is “portraying believers as if they are barbarians who do not care about culture and civilization.”

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A member of ISIS destroying an ancient bas-relief sculpture.

The militants vowed to continue the destruction of cultural heritage sites, which no doubt provides an escape from their everyday routine of killing innocent civilians.

“I swear to God, we will remove the signs of idolatry until we destroy the shrines and the graves of the Rafidha [derogatory slang for Shiites] in their own heartland, break the crosses and destroy the black house in the heartland of infidels, America,” a militant said.

Yes, ISIS honestly thinks it’s going to destroy the White House.

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