Last week the United States gave back to Iraq various antiquities seized in a raid against ISIS fighters in Syria. It is said that this haul is proof that the militants are funding their brutal war by stealing and smuggling ancient treasures.
As ISIS fighters continue to cause havoc and death they are also looting and destroying the heritage and history of countries such as Iraq and Syria.
The recent haul returned to the museum included pottery, various items of jewelry, ancient cylindrical stamps, some glass shards from what was probably a colored vase, and several early Islamic coins. The items were seized in May when U.S. special forces launched an operation against an Islamic State commander, Abu Sayyaf.
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As reported on NBC News, ISIS have recently ransacked several of the greatest archaeological and historic sites in northern Iraq and have posted video footage of their fighters destroying various priceless monuments that the group consider idolatrous. However, Iraqi officials say that the footage of this destruction was published by ISIS to cover up and distract from the fact that they are smuggling antiquities from the sites to raise money for their cause.
At Baghdad’s national museum, U.S. ambassador Stuart Jones said, “Their goal is to sell these antiquities on the global black market,” as he handed back the looted treasure.
“Today’s effort represents one success in the efforts to return Iraq’s historic patrimony, but the campaign to return all of Iraq’s treasures continues.”
According to Haaretz, so far the ISIS fighters have desecrated several ancient Assyrian and Graeco-Roman palaces in northern Iraq. These include the cities of Nimrud and Nineveh, a desert complex at Hatra, and the 2,700-year-old Assyrian capital of Khorsabad.
In Syria, ISIS have taken what is considered to be the cradle of modern civilization, the ancient ruins of Palmyra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back as far as Neolithic times and during the 3rd century AD was a rich metropolis. The complex contains such buildings as the Palmyra Theater, Diocletian’s Camp, Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle, and the Temple of Bel.
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While the media reported that ISIS had pulled out of the area, various video footage has been published online by ISIS taken in the Palmyra Amphitheater, showing a man being tortured with a whip, forcing him to destroy the ancient Lion of al-Lat statue.
UNESCO officials are horrified by the continuous devastation to these historic archaeological wonders, and Iraqi officials have appealed for international help to protect the sites against the ISIS attacks. The US-led coalition, recently bombing Islamic State bases and convoys in both Iraq and Syria, has reportedly not deployed air strikes in an effort to defend the ancient archaeological sites.
The video below shows the destruction of artifacts in the museum in Mosul.
[Image: Temple of Bel, Palmyra CC BY-SA 3.0 Longbow4u]