Baghdad: The Islamic State group released a video today purportedly showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in Iraq's northern city of Mosul, describing them as idols that must be removed.
The destructions are part of a campaign by the IS extremists, who have destroyed a number of shrines including Muslim holy sites in order to eliminate what they view as heresy. They are also believed to have sold ancient artifacts on the black market in order to finance their bloody campaign across the region.
The five-minute video shows a group of bearded men inside the Mosul Museum using hammers and drills to destroy several large statues, which are then shown in pieces and chipped. The video then shows a black-clad man at a nearby archaeological site inside Mosul drilling through and destroying a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 7th century BC.
The video was posted on social media accounts affiliated with the Islamic State group and though it could not be independently verified it appeared authentic, based on AP's knowledge of the Mosul Museum.
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and the surrounding Nineveh province fell to the militants during their blitz last June after Iraqi security forces melted away.
In their push, the extremists captured large swaths of land in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, declared a self-styled caliphate on territories that are under their control, killing members of religious minorities, driving others from their homes, enslaving women and destroying houses of worship.
The region under IS control in Iraq has nearly 1,800 of Iraq's 12,000 registered archaeological sites and the militants appear to be out to cleanse it of any non-Islamic ideas, including library books, archaeological relics, and even Islamic sites considered idolatrous.