A video has been released in which members of ISIL are shown taking hammers and drills to ancient sculptures and precious works of art at the Mosul Museum in Iraq, The Guardian reports.
Released by the “press office of the province of Nineveh [the region around Mosul],” the video begins with a man reciting a verse from the Qur’an on idol worship. “The prophet, peace be upon him, ordered us to remove and obliterate statues,” the man says, evoking Islam’s intolerance of idolatry to explain the reasoning behind the attack. He cites the story of the Prophet Muhammad destroying idols in Mecca to further illustrate the reasons for the raid.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Museum of Art called the storming of the Mosul Museum “a mindless attack on great art, on history and human understanding,” the Observer reports. Located near the Syrian border in the northern province of Nineveh, Mosul, with roughly one million inhabitants, is Iraq’s second-largest city.
Occupying the site of the ancient city of Nineveh, former capital of the Assyrian Empire, the region contains a number of art works dating some 3,000 years to the time of the world’s first empire. The video shows one of those works, a 7th-century BC sculpture of a winged bull representing protection for the Assyrian people, as it is violently destroyed at an archaeological site near the museum.
The storming was ISIL’s second attempt this week to erase the Iraqi people and the Assyrian minority from the pages of history. On Monday, the extremist group stormed the central library of Mosul, reducing some 100,000 books, manuscripts, and newspapers to ashes. The head of UNESCO called the attack “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history,” lauding it as the latest attempt on the part of ISIL to “wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people,” The Guardianreports.
The Mosul region has been in upheaval since ISIL took control of the area last June. Since then, Peshmerga, the Iraqi Kurdistan armed forces, has stepped up efforts to remove ISIS from the region and country. The US, along with allied forces, has heavily backed Iraqi efforts to eliminate ISIS. As recently as Tuesday, airstrikes have been performed in the Mosul region as part of Operation Inherent Resolve – the name given the concerted effort by US and coalition forces to remove ISIS from Iraq.